Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre – School Statement
Sandwich Technology School has, for some eighteen months, been negotiating with the current lease owners of Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre (The Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre Trust) to find a way to bring about required improvements to the poor condition of the Sports Hall floor and other aspects in want of repair at the Centre.
As owner of the land that the Centre is built upon and the most significant user of the Sports Hall, the school offered to invest a significant sum in order to address areas of substantial dilapidation. Before investing funds, however, we wished to ensure that the building would not fall into disrepair again after the investment. To achieve this, we offered to take ownership of the building – thereby taking full responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the Centre. Freedom Leisure, the company that runs the Centre on behalf of the Trust, was fully supportive of this plan and, in partnership with them, the school was committed to keeping the Centre open for continued community use. Freedom Leisure had also committed, as part of this proposal, to invest a considerable amount of money into improving the Sports and Leisure Centre, for the good of both the community and the school’s students.
If ownership of the building were to transfer to the school, we would be able to apply to the Department for Education to access considerable funds to repair the dilapidations in addition to the significant amount of money that the school has been willing to invest directly, but, if the building is privately owned, as it is currently, those funds cannot be accessed.
In October we believed this was settled and the future of the Centre was secure, as the Trust had agreed in principle to our proposals. However, two things have recently happened that have changed this: firstly, the Trust decided against the transfer of ownership after all and, secondly, the Sports Hall floor, which has been in a sorry state for some considerable time, was deemed to be unsafe by a sport expert and by our insurers – under these circumstances it is impossible for us to use the Centre and safeguard our students’ safety. It is with the deepest of regret that we had to make the very difficult decision to stop using the Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre in March and informed our parents. We cannot justify spending tax-payers’ money on a provision that we are not using; we have, therefore, also withdrawn our financial support of the Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre.
Throughout this process we have been in regular contact with both Kent County Council and the Department for Education, who have been aware of the situation and supportive of the school’s position.
We understand that the Trustees have cited as a sticking point in negotiations the refusal of the school to commit to long-term community use of the facilities. I would like to make clear that, as part of our proposal, the school had committed to a new ten-year contract with Freedom Leisure, which guaranteed at least ten years of community usage. The Trust’s expectation that we could commit to community usage forever is both unrealistic and unreasonable. The current Governors and myself are only temporary custodians of the school and, as such, cannot make a permanent undertaking. If, in a worst case scenario, community usage should fail as a business, we could not commit tax-payers’ money to propping up that failing business – we are funded by the tax payer to provide high quality education for our students and we cannot make commercial decisions to the detriment of that core purpose. As a school we benefit from sharing the facility with the community and we have never had any plans to change this.
We are deeply sorry about how things have turned out – particularly for the community and the staff of Freedom Leisure. We have always had a very positive relationship with Freedom Leisure and we were very much looking forward to working directly with them under the terms of the proposal that we put forward to bring the Sandwich Sports and Leisure Centre back up to a standard that would have been both safe and pleasurable for all of our students and community to use. It is a great pity that things have not worked out that way.
24 April 2020
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