I start by welcoming the Minister to his place. He was actually a former neighbouring MP when I was living in Stratford-upon-Avon in my childhood bedroom at the age of 29 or 30 years old, so it is a great honour to have the chance to talk to him today. I am also grateful to hon. Members across the House for joining the debate. Kidsgrove sports centre is something that my hon. Friend the Minister has heard many things about since getting to his place. I am looking forward to providing a fuller education about why this important community asset must be refurbished and saved.
Kidsgrove sports centre is an essential community asset. The centre was a place for people of all walks of life to congregate for one common purpose—to focus on their physical and mental wellbeing. Initially, the centre was a place for one’s own wellbeing; it then bloomed as connections were formed and faces became familiar. It became a hub for people in the community to interact with one another and, consequently, care for one another.
Kidsgrove sports centre was opened in 1976. From the beginning, the push to bring sport facilities to Kidsgrove was community-led. The centre was built to fill the huge demand for local sporting facilities. That demand has increased, not decreased, yet nearly 45 years later, a gap has once again emerged following the closure of the centre. Kidsgrove sports centre was last refurbished in 1991, 25 years after the initial build. That refurbishment carried the centre through to 2011, when a storm caused the roof to cave in and the wet site was closed. A full refurbishment will likely extend the life span of the centre by another 25 years at a third of the cost of a new build. Discussions pertaining to a potential new-build sports facility were launched in earnest in 2012 although, regrettably, nothing came to fruition. During the course of these discussions, the friction that arose between local government figures and the wider community came to a head in 2017, when it was announced that Kidsgrove sports centre was to be closed, much to the shock and surprise of the public.