Plea for one-year reprieve for Staylittle Outdoor Centre

Reporter:

Keri Trigg

A one-year reprieve for Staylittle Outdoor Centre is being called for by Llanidloes Town Council.

At their latest meeting, councillors put their support behind the campaign to save the centre from closure, which has already been backed by over 5,000 people via an online petition.

Maggie Fitzpatrick-Reeves, who started the petition, also attended the meeting on Monday.

County Councillor Gareth Morgan led the calls for the town council to put pressure on Powys County Council to reverse its decision to close the facility in April 2018. If the closure goes ahead, it will save PCC £130,000 per year.

Cllr Morgan said: “It’s an issue of considerable concern to a very extended community.

“There is an online petition with 5,000 signatures, which is a vast number of people. The comments left on there are very touching.

The petition was started by Maggie Fitzpatrick-Reeves who attended the town council's meeting on Monday.

“There is someone who wrote on there that he had been expelled from school and wasn’t making a very good job of his life.

“But he was sent to Staylittle on a daily basis for a period of time and it had the effect of completely changing his life.

“He joined the army, he has risen through the ranks and is now having a very successful life – and he attributes that to Staylittle.”

Cllr Morgan also recalled helping to open the centre back in 1993, after its popularity outgrew the old building it had previously occupied.

“The centre there started in a very modest way, back in the 70s when it was decided to put it in the old school. Because it was so successful, the county council decided that they needed a purpose-built centre.

“That building has 60 beds in it, excellent catering facilities, and the view from the place is amazing.

“I had the pleasure of being the chair of the committee at Powys County Council that took the whole project from start to finish. I was very proud of what went on there.”

Announcing the closure in early November, PCC said no “viable” bids were put forward during a marketing exercise, leaving no other option than closure.

But this argument has been disputed, with Cllr Morgan saying more time should be spent investigating the options.

Cllr Gareth Morgan (right) with Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds and Cllr David Selby at Staylittle Outdoor Centre.

Cllr Morgan (right) with Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds and Cllr David Selby at Staylittle Outdoor Centre.

He added: “The council is talking about a saving of £130,000 a year. It’s absolute washers.

“They have advertised it for sale or to rent, and there were three of four bidders, but they were all rejected for various reasons.

“It’s just going to sit there getting into a worse and worse condition. They will have to keep it reasonably dry and keep the heating on – what is that going to cost?

“If they would be prepared to let it continue for one year while they pursue the possibilities further, I think it would be entitled to that reprieve.”

This idea was backed by the town council, with Mayor Cllr Janet Crisp saying: “It is a backwards step.

“There doesn’t appear to have been any forethought.”

Cllr Stephen Lees added: “It’s not a local asset like a leisure centre, it’s a county asset if not a national asset.

“It is so important that we retain it.”

The councillors resolved to write to Cllr Rosemarie Harris, leader of PCC, local member Cllr Phyl Davies and PCC officer Paul Griffiths urging that the imminent closure be stopped.

Email:

keri.trigg@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the County Times

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