Remodelling the West Park Pavilion could be an opportunity for Uckfield to develop a leading “hub” for girls’ and women’s sports.
That was the view of Uckfield town councillors last night (July 10) who were discussing possible plans for the building.
A feasibility study had gone before the general purposes committee in March but members felt potential income was too low, costs of the works were far too high – around £200,000 – and sought some confidence that the space would be used.
A less expensive plan put forward last night for the town council-owned building found more favour with members who have asked for further investigations to be carried out.
Cllr Paul Sparks, committee vice-chairman, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield North, said sport was becoming more important for girls and women across the country.
He had been told at the Big Day on Saturday that the local Grasshoppers had 60 girls regularly playing football.
“Anything we do needs to incorporate changing facilities and toilet facilities for girls as well as boys and it is not obvious from these plans [that they are catered for].
“I think we need to respond to the changing way sport is played in this country with girls playing sport in very large numbers now.”
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield Central, said the council would be failing in its duty if it failed to build into its proposals adequate facilities for girls and women who wanted to play sports.
He also wanted to be sure if the works went ahead where the income would come from and said more work was needed on identifying revenue options.
Town clerk, Holly Goring, said the plan before councillors showed the showers were separate but the lavatories would need reconfiguring.
Cllr Mick Dean, Trust Independent, New Town, said remodelling the pavilion at West Park was an opportunity for the council.
“We could as a town be a bit of a leader in this if you target women’s sport,” he said.
He referred to some years ago when coaching young female rugby players at Uckfield and cricketers (Buxted) when he had to lose them at age 12 and send them to Worthing (rugby) and Lewes (cricket) because the facilities were all for males.
He said: “If we are going to front ourselves as a leader for girls sport, whatever the sport, there could be the FA (football), the ECB (cricket), the RFU (rugby) . . . we could say we want to do this, can you help.
“There’s Sport England, there’s Sport for All. There are all these organisations who want to get girls into sport.
“Now is the time because England are the World Cup rugby champions, they are the cricket champions as well, and they are not bad at football either.
“There’s a big buzz about girls sport and we should jump in and find out who [would financially support the work].”
Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, who has just stood down as Town Mayor, said conversations with people and groups in the town led her to be “more than satisfied” that the space would be used as there were people desperate for rooms to hire.
Cllr Diane Ward, committee chairman, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, said the council should not consider the building as totally for sports but be available for other uses as well.
The town clerk said the draft plan showed space that could be used by the general community.
There were two spaces, she said, and it would be up to the council how they were used.
Further work on the proposal is to be carried out.