Squash courts under threat

OUTCRY: A proposal to close the squash courts at Lyttelton Recreation Centre is coming under fire.

Squash courts at the Lyttelton Recreation Centre may be closed and replaced with a gym after a survey showed they weren’t getting much use.

But the proposal from non-profit organisation Project Lyttelton is getting some heat from residents.

And the city council now says it wants to speak to existing users of the courts before they make a decision.

Banks Peninsula Community Board deputy chairman Jed O’Donoghue said he wasn’t aware of the proposal until seeing a Facebook post about it on Friday.

“As far as I know it has not been to the board,” he told the Bay Harbour News.

The city council this year tasked Project Lyttelton with revitalising the centre, which has struggled since reopening in 2016 after a five-year closure.

Project Lyttelton chairwoman Margaret Jefferies said they had surveyed about 130 people to find how they used the centre currently and what they wanted to see more of.

The results indicated there was “hardly anyone” using the squash courts who registered, she said.

“We discovered later that some people were using it unofficially so we had no record of that. If you don’t register you don’t have a voice. People were getting in and playing for nothing really . . . we’re just balancing what’s there with what the demand was and the demand for squash was very low,” said Ms Jefferies.

She said they had publicised the survey widely online and had also spoken to people in the community.

City council head of community support, governance and partnership John Filsell said a closure date had yet to be confirmed. The city council would take the views of existing users into consideration.

“Council staff have communicated with the individuals who use the squash court but at this point in time not everybody has been reached,” he said.

Mr Filsell said the squash court was currently booked “on average three to four times a week. Over the next two months, there are currently seven bookings.”

Some players are angry they weren’t consulted and didn’t know of the proposal.

James Sinclair lives and works in Lyttelton.

He said he used the squash courts every week but hadn’t been approached for feedback.

“It really is terrible communication with the community. If Project Lyttelton has ‘put forward numerous efforts to engage people to give their input’ how come I haven’t seen or heard any until now?”

He said 130 was a small survey at the best of times, “let alone when they’re taking away a purpose-built facility.”

Andy Dopleach said it will mean no more squash playing for most people in the township as the ability to walk down, play and then go to a bar/cafe afterwards was “big draw” and kept the game social and fun.

The nearest city council owned squash courts are in Sockburn.