I recently took my lads to Crediton, a town smaller than Sidmouth that has a more even-handed and co-ordinated approach to sport and the youth of the area.
Their pitches are all built around the sports centre with floodlit hard surface practice pitches for netball, tennis, football and hockey, as well as a super swimming pool, a floodlit football pitch and rugby pitches nearby.
As a result, the kids do not have to travel miles to train for a meagre hour a week, have access to a wide range of activities that pool their resources rather than run independent facilities, and as a result, become more inclusive for the town’s youth, narrowing the divide between those that can afford and those that find it extremely difficult to live day to day.
And it isn’t just Crediton. Tiverton, and even Stoke Gabriel who must “share a horse” with another village, put Sidmouth to shame.
Yet in Sidmouth we continue to be denied a floodlit all-weather training surface for hockey, football, rugby and, yes, netball – there are girls in the town who also require the use of recreational facilities.
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There is a perfectly good facility for all weather sport located at the sports centre in Sidmouth but it has no floodlights, so in the winter months it is virtually unusable.
Sidmouth Junior Football Club currently has 277 children signed up and they are expected to travel to Ottery, Bicton or Colyton to train!
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This must be totally at odds with the council’s ‘green policies’. For these parents, it is often not viable, being at odds with their work commitments and the financial limitations of the distances involved.
In conclusion, I am frankly amazed that East Devon District Council has seemingly dictated what sports projects should be allowed to go to the public vote and thereby been so dismissive of the recreational needs of such a significant part of the town’s youth.
There is an immediate need to raise the profile of this issue and to start a wider campaign to try to get all of the inhabitants of the area to see how important it is to provide adequate sporting facilities for all of the youth of the valley.
People are right to (and quick to) criticise the youngsters if they are spending their time loitering on street corners or worse – so let’s all work together make sure that they never need to!