Sports association up off the blocks

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THE organisation planning to deal with sports and recreation facilities on the former Whittingham Hospital site has been formed officially.

Whittingham and Goosnargh Sports and Community Association is up and running after formal approval of its constitution and is currently in the process of seeking charitable status.

The move coincides with developers Taylor Woodrow taking control of the site and starting public consultations and there are eight trustees of the new association including chairman Stan Hunter, treasurer Michael Parker, secretary Mary Cooper, Peter Parkinson, David McKay, Andrew Baxendale, Harold Jackson and Ken Hudson who each have strong connections with the villages of Whittingham and Goosnargh.

The establishment of the association stems from the Whittingham Parish Plan's sports, leisure and recreation section from where it was decided to set up a 'community trust' to take forward the aims and objectives for the recreational facilities on the hospital site.

Also, the Whittingham and Goosnargh Community Working Group was already established and had held talks with the NHS and their agents, Preston City Council and in turn, English Partnerships about the site.

This group was made up of representatives from the Whittingham and Goosnargh Sports and Social Club, Whittingham Cricket Club, the Whittingham and Goosnargh Action Group, Whittingham Parish Council, Goosnargh Tennis Club, the football section, the chairman of Goosnargh Parish Council and Preston Coun Ken Hudson, most of who are now trustees of the new association.

A deal with the NHS had been brokered with the assistance of Jim Carr, Chief Executive of Preston City Council, which left the Sports and Social Club with an offer of 600k to replace the existing facilities or to stay in their present position with money to upgrade.

Then, when John Prescott's office took ownership of the site and EP became the negotiating body, the Community Working Group continued to talk with them about the sports and leisure facilities on the site and, taking advice from Community Futures, moved towards the establishment of the Sports and Community Association.

A community association was preferred to a trust on the advice of Community Futures, as it would make it easier to secure grant funding in this form and a constitution was adopted following discussions at an open meeting to which the village hall committee and village hall users were invited together with the Whittingham Parish Council and other local interested parties.

A spokesperson for the newly formed associaton says they believe they have a strongly representative local body which has held several meetings with Taylor Woodrow, their consultants DTZ and English Partnerships, together examining the possible locations for sports, recreation and leisure facilities on the site.

Only yesterday (Thursday), chairman Stan Hunter, secretary Mary Cooper and treasurer Michael Parker together with Taylor Woodrow's Joe Isle and DTZ's Andrew Thomson were due to travel to Mere Brow to take a look at the institute there.

It is believed the Mere Brow Institute operates along similar lines to what the Whittingham association would wish to aspire to.

Although the spokesperson said there was still a long way to go, the trustees were optimistic they could negotiate the best possible outcome both for the existing and the new community at Whittingham.

* Whittingham Parish Council has given the WGSCA a grant of 500 towards the setting up of the association and the association will also be applying to Awards for All for further setting up costs.