A Wiltshire councillor has claimed that closing the squash courts in Warminster is a “waste of public money" and is fighting to keep them open.

Wiltshire Council informed the community of its decision to permanently close the squash courts at Warminster Sports Centre in March.

According to the council, this is a necessary step to make room for the planned improvements to the centre, which include making it more accessible, refurbishing the existing studios, and creating a consultation room.

However, Cllr Tony Jackson is fighting the decision.

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Wiltshire Times: Councillor Tony Jackson says Wiltshire Council announced the closure without notice.

He said: “The squash courts were built by West Wiltshire District Council at considerable cost. It is a waste of public money by Wiltshire Council to repurpose this facility.”

Cllr Jackson argues that the council should have consulted on the closure and that the improvements to the centre could be carried out without removing the squash courts.

He added: “Warminster Sports Centre is next door to Kingdown School. Scorpion Squash Club has made arrangements with a professional squash coach and the school for lunch time and after-school coaching sessions.

“These depend on the twin glass-backed courts available at Warminster. Closure of courts ends this planned programme.”

Mike Turner, 57, has used the facilities for 26 years and said that losing them will have a “direct impact on all members of the club”, which is likely to disband.

He said: “We are trying to lobby support to keep them open. We’ve highlighted a lot of aspects, where it is beneficial to the community and for the youth programme.”
Cllr Ian Blair-Pilling, cabinet member for leisure, said: “We are investing significantly in the fitness facilities at Warminster Sports Centre and other leisure centres across the county.

“Our focus with this investment is the health and wellbeing of the community, making our facilities more accessible and attractive to more people and in turn improving financial sustainability.

“We were happy to meet with some local squash players recently to hear their views on our plans for Warminster Sports Centre and explain in more detail the context behind the decisions we’ve made.

“We fully understand their disappointment that squash facilities won’t be in place when we have made improvements to the fitness facilities at the centre, but as a local authority we have a responsibility to ensure the leisure services we provide focus on meeting the health needs of as wide a number of our communities as possible, while keeping facilities sustainable and affordable for all."

He said that information shows there isn't regular squash players, and that the courts are under-used and not financially viable.

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He added: “There are squash facilities available just a few miles away at Leighton Recreation Centre, where existing memberships related to squash will be useable.

“We want Warminster Sports Centre to be much more accessible to people of all ages and abilities – and the improvements we’re planning, which will include moving the fitness suite to the ground floor, will do just that.

“The current fitness suite at Warminster is now dated and does not provide the modern experience customers expect and the improvements we are planning will see it almost double in size.

“Our data shows there is the potential for around 1,000 fitness memberships at Warminster, where currently there are around 550.

“We recently presented these plans to Warminster Area Board and they were well received.

"In this case, there is no legal requirement to consult on the changes we are planning, and our decisions are well informed and based on evidence.

“We are expecting construction to get under way in the late summer or autumn of this year and will keep stakeholders updated as our plans progress.

“While other authorities across the country are closing leisure facilities, we are bucking the national trend and investing more money to offer more facilities for our residents."