Sports hall plan is a blow to Blackpool netball community

Blackpool Sports Centre
Blackpool Sports Centre
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Plans to convert part of a sports centre into a children's play area and cafe have angered netball players who say they have lost a vital facility.

Blackpool Council is set to borrow £325,000 to change indoor court space at Blackpool Sports Centre into a soft play area for under-eights.

The move will halve the space at the sports hall on West Park Drive, meaning the loss of one netball court and five badminton courts.

The Fylde Netball League - which celebrated its 60th anniversary this year - has been forced to find new venues around the town for its indoor winter season.

But fixtures have been disrupted, some courts are of a lower standard and some teams have been told they cannot play because not enough replacement courts are available.

Now netball chiefs have hit out at the council for sacrificing sports facilities for a play area.

Fylde Netball League secretary Barbara Graham said: "We have ended up with non-standard netball facilities and have had to turn teams away, because we cannot accommodate the numbers any more due to a lack of facilities.

"This has also meant that the revenue we would have ordinarily spent during the winter season, around £11,000 for only a handful of hours use per week, will now go to local academies and will no longer benefit council pots.

"Surely we have enough cafes and soft play areas in Blackpool without decimating the only local two hall facility of this kind."

Ms Graham said some people could no longer play "the sport they love" because replacement courts were not central.

Blackpool Netball Club, which trains players of all ages and has produced two England players, has also been affected by the plans.

Ms Graham added: "Blackpool Netball Club coaches have worked tirelessly and at personal expense to build up the youth attendance which is now thriving, but because of numbers and coaching ratios the dual hall facility is an absolute necessity.

"FNL is one of the largest, longest established netball leagues in the country and Blackpool Council is putting 60 years of membership at risk for the sake of a cafe and soft play area that Blackpool is awash with."

But leisure chiefs say the complex is losing money and the changes could bring in an annual profit of nearly £50,000.

It is believed more than 33,000 children would use the new play area each year.