Express & Star

Campaign launched to stop Wednesbury school selling off sports centre for homes

The 150 football teams and hundreds of gym members who use Pulse Wednesbury are fighting back after it was announced the sports centre is closing to make way for houses.

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Phoenix Collegiate School wants to build houses on Pulse Wednesbury

Two petitions, one to Parliament and another to Sandwell Council, have been launched to show the depth of feeling about Phoenix Collegiate School forcing the closure of the sports centre.

Councillors from across the political divide all registered their dismay that the popular sports facility will close down on Sunday without consultation before planning permission was granted to build 84 houses.

Centre Spot is one of many organisations which leases the facilities at Pulse and had a full children's summer football programme booked, which many parents rely on for childcare.

After appealing for help, Centre Spot was offered the use of football pitches at Wodensborough Ormiston Academy, in Hydes Road, Wednesbury.

Centre Spot director Manny Abbeyquaye said: "We have secured a new venue for the remainder of this summer's camps. Wodensborough Ormiston Academy will be our new home for the summer.

"Pulse's closure is a massive loss to the local community as we know over 150 local grassroots football teams, several community groups and organisations, hundreds of gym members, and many members of the general community use it each week.

"Pulse is much more than a few football pitches, young people can come and feel safe as well as doing sports. There are people who do great work ensuring children stay on the right path. I just cannot believe Phoenix Collegiate would do this to the community of Friar Park.

"We have started a petition to Sandwell Council in the hope that they can ensure the venue remains a space for us all going forward."

There has been a massive outpouring of upset and revulsion on social media after Pulse, a Commonwealth Games Legacy project, shocked staff, parents and children by announcing its imminent closure on Facebook.

After the initial anger and shock Friar Park residents began encouraging one another, which fostered a determination to stop Phoenix Collegiate School doing what they said was sacrificing the fitness and mental health wellbeing of local children for money generated by 84 new houses.

Gym user Daniel Lippitt emailed politicians from all parties demanding action and started a Parliamentary petition.

He said: "Closing this facility would be a huge blow for the local community. Bustleholme FC have over 35 teams that use this facility for training and also numerous other teams that use the pitches on a daily basis.

"Pulse has become a hub for grassroots football in the local community and it would be such a shame to see that disappear from the area, especially at a time where women’s football is being publicised more and more to get young girls into the sport. That would be ripped away from the area."

Local councillors and cabinet members on Sandwell Council claim the first they knew about Pulse's closure was on social media.

Friar Park Councillor Simon Hackett has vowed to reverse the decision and demanded an investigation.

Sandwell Council cabinet member for leisure, Councillor Laura Rollins, said: "It’s been raised at the highest level and I’ve personally spoken to the chief executive.

"Officers will work to ascertain what has happened in the first instance and take any available, appropriate steps from there. However I do not want to raise expectations, especially in the short term given the short timeframe and also that the school may well now be closed for the holidays."

Phoenix Collegiate School has been approached for a comment.