Frustration from users as Spalding Academy suspends site lettings

A decision to suspend lettings at the Spalding Academy site has met with anger and frustration.

South Lincolnshire Academies Trust, which runs the school, has given regular users of the Neville Avenue site five months’ notice to find an alternative.

The trust says “a number of operational issues” have arisen since the start of the academic year which has led to it deciding to end lettings “for the foreseeable future” from September 1 this year.
It says the all-weather pitch is in “significantly poor condition”, with tears and gaps causing trip hazards.

The site is used out of school hours for football and as an outdoor base for archery group Silver Spoon Bowmen of Spalding.

One football user told The Voice: “During the summer holidays of 2015, the pitch was closed to be replaced with a new 3G surface but then they pulled the funding at the last minute.
“So after a six-week enforced break we returned expecting to find a new pitch, but nothing had been done.
“I agree the pitch could be better, it needs to be maintained better/more regularly but their comments are over the top.
“My casual football group have booked the pitch weekly for at least the last nine years. There are many other long-term regulars who will be similarly affected.”

Silver Spoon Bowmen has shot at the site for over 20 years.

Chairman Dan Smith said: ” In that time archers from all over the country have taken part in competitions including regional competitions there.
” We have over the years introduced hundreds if not thousands of local individuals both young and old to our sport. During that time there has not been one instance where our presence on those premises has caused the school or anyone associated with it any problems whatsoever. Indeed we were entrusted with keys or codes to get onto the field or into toilets as and when our contract stipulated.

“However, since the academy came under new management that changed abruptly as meaningful communication with the new management team was problematical. From being trusted long term users we were made to feel unwelcome and had our access to the premises restricted, so much so that had we taken up this years contract we would have spent as much time setting up as we were shooting.

“Archery requires hours of practice and hundreds of arrows to be shot for an archer to progress. Under the new regime our young international archers in particular would have had their aspirations dashed through no fault of theirs or the club’s.

“We were already looking for new facilities before being notified by the Academy of their decision to stop lettings from September 1st and that has process has now accelerated. We are hopeful we will find suitable premises but as we require over 200 yards by 150 yards of grass to safely shoot in that may prove difficult.”

In a letter on behalf of the trust, Spalding Academy operations manager Helen Lewis insisted that the decision to end lettings had not been taken lightly.She said: “There are numerous reasons for this decision with a major contributing factor being the condition of the all weather pitch.”

She added: “Safeguarding is another serious issue which the school must consider. Whilst lettings are on site, we are unable to ensure the safeguarding of any Spalding Academy students which we may have on the site.
“Equally, we do not have a secure site when lettings are in situ.”

The letter expressed that the education of students was the trust’s priority and this was best met by discontinuing lettings.

South Holland District Council said it would be able to support existing users find alternative venues through advice and signposting.

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