Race is on to save the Julie Rose
SPRINT FINISH: Time running out for new agreement
SADLY it is no April fool that fitness classes at the Julie Rose Stadium will stop on April 1.
People who attend the evening and weekend fitness classes, most of them from Willesborough and Kennington, expressed huge disappointment when they found out about the cuts earlier this week.
People have voiced concerns that the community is losing out on healthy activities and the focus will now be on elite athletics.
The chairman of the stadium trust said he “regrets the cuts as we are a public facility”.
Meanwhile, Ashford Borough Council and the Julie Rose Stadium Trust (JRST) have still not reached an agreement about the stadium’s future and the two parties are blaming one another for the delay.
The future of the stadium is hanging in the balance as funding has been cut.
The cash-strapped council was unable to grant Ashford Leisure Trust, which runs both the stadium and the Stour Centre, sufficient funding. The stadium trust said unless the amount was increased the stadium would close.
More money has since been pledged by the council but in return for certain conditions, including the JRST handing over £25,000 of its £32,500 reserves to Ashford Leisure Trust, which the stadium trust had earmarked for new equipment.
It was expected that the two parties would sign an agreement at a meeting last Monday but additional conditions were put on the table which the chairman of the JRST said he was not in a position to immediately agree to.
Since then, both the chairman of the JRST, Cllr Peter Davison, a former Conservative councillor, and now an Ashford Independent, and chief executive of Ashford Borough Council David Hill, issued near identical statements, each urging the other to agree to the other’s terms.
Cllr Davison said: “We urge the council to be responsive, and very quickly.”
Mr Hill said: “We urge them to respond to our improved offer swiftly so the uncertainty over the stadium can be laid to rest.”
There has been huge public support for the stadium since news of possible closure and cuts came to light.
A 700-name petition, which will be delivered to a meeting of Ashford Borough Council’s executive tonight (Thursday), and a 1,500-member group on Facebook both show the strength of public feeling.
Cllr Davison, from the stadium trust, also said: “I think a common sense business arrangement could have been made in a few weeks, this has been going on for five months.”
Mr Hill, head of the council, said: “We remain in constructive, private, negotiations with the Julie Rose Stadium Trust over funding and have written to them with a revised offer that incorporates a significant increase on the figure envisaged in the council’s agreed budget for 2009/10.
“The letter also looks to address the concerns expressed by the trust and seeks to find an acceptable way forward for all the parties involved.”
Both parties are aware that time is running out. The current agreement between the council and trust comes to an end on Tuesday.
But if they reach an agreement about the stadium’s future it will be after decisions have been made about jobs.
Staff at the Julie Rose Stadium are due to receive letters about their jobs today (Thursday).
The Julie Rose Stadium cancels fitness classes