Hundreds oppose closure of New Mills Squash Court

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More than 900 people have signed a petition over the proposed closure of the squash court in New Mills.

High Peak Borough Council is proposing to replace the squash court with a new wellness centre.

The community has rallied together against the proposal, with over 900 people signing a petition and more than 50 attending a protest.

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The council is also proposing to reduce the main sports hall to two thirds of its original size – an idea also opposed by the some residents

Squash juniors and coaches at New Mills Squash Court. Photo submittedSquash juniors and coaches at New Mills Squash Court. Photo submitted
Squash juniors and coaches at New Mills Squash Court. Photo submitted

Local squash player Jo-Anne Witcombe said: "The squash court is a really well-used and well-loved facility at the heart of the town. In fact, the community themselves fundraised for it to be built, and it's been there since 1980. All residents can book it out in their spare time to get fit, have fun and improve their squash skills – all they need is a ball and a racket.”The squash court has been part of the New Mills community for more than four decades. High Peak Borough Council is looking at replacing the court with a wellness centre which would aid individuals recovering from serious illnesses.New Mills Squash Club estimates that more than 200 people use the court over a three-month period, which they say highlights its popularity and importance to the community.Matthew Thomas – who started the petition – has been running junior sessions for the past 10 months. He said: "We have around 30 young people aged five–16 participating, and it's been amazing to see them improve over the past year.“The sessions are well attended, and we'll soon be looking to add even more. A few of the juniors have even attended some regional tournaments where they've won both silver and gold medals. They would be genuinely devastated if they couldn't carry on playing and improving at this sport that they've grown to love.“It feels like we're just getting started and we'd love to expand the junior squash in New Mills to attend more tournaments, involve local schools and possibly even host our own tournament.”New Mills has had a mixed team in the North-West Counties Squash League for more than 40 years.Squash also brings with it many other social and wellbeing benefits – as petition signee Hannah Hodgson commented: “The national agenda is to get more people more active. Squash and racketball provide the opportunity for connections, friendship and fitness, improving the wellbeing of body and mind.“We simply cannot be in a position where removing facilities is deemed a positive step.”Campaigners have highlighted the squash court in New Mills is one of only two squash venues in the entire High Peak, and that removing it would make the sport inaccessible to a large number of people.Jo-Anne said: “Ripping out a purpose-built, tailor-made facility would be a thoughtless act of destruction and can easily be avoided."Proposed changes do not stop with the removal of the squash court. High Peak Borough Council is also proposing to reduce the size of the main sports hall at the leisure centre as part of their ‘Joint Leisure Transformation Plan’.If plans go ahead, the sports hall will be reduced to two thirds of its original size to make way for a gym extension.If approved this will impact the vibrant sports community which uses the space including pickleball, five-a-side football and could could limit opportunities for badminton, roller disco, walking tennis, and dance classes, affecting both organised sports and school activities.Dismayed mother and badminton player Natalie Hadden said: “It would be so sad if the sports hall were to reduce in size.“It provides a shared space for many groups and great flexibility for a wide variety of sports including badminton, pickleball, roller disco, walking tennis, football and dance classes.“It's also an invaluable facility for all schools in the area. Many activities just can't work at a competitive or league level in a reduced space. This is a vital community resource that if lost, is lost forever.”Town councillors are also calling for a halt to HPBC’s plans until a comprehensive public consultation is conducted.Councillor Beth Eadie said: “High Peak Borough Council needs to start answering questions, and openly sharing their plans. It’s time to engage in meaningful conversation with the people of New Mills."“As people cry out, it's clear that it is time to let the voice of New Mills be heard – a plea for genuine public consultation to shape the future of a town's beloved leisure centre.

Campaigners believe that the community should have a say in any changes made to the Leisure Centre. They are urging High Peak Borough Council to hold a public consultation and to share their plans publicly.Councillor Damien Greenhalgh, Deputy Leader and Executive Councillor for Regeneration, Tourism and Leisure, said: “High Peak Borough Council has prioritised the investment in Leisure facilities across the borough. As part of this the Council is currently developing options for New Mills Leisure Centre. Discussions regarding our plans are ongoing with the community and will be completed before any final decision is made.“Our Move More High Peak Strategy sets out ambitious plans to increase the level of movement and physical activity across the community. These exciting proposals for New Mill Leisure Centre would support more people to be active, particularly those people who need the most support.“We are pleased to look at investing in community facilities when many other councils are having to reduce or entirely close their leisure facilities. Any investment made into the facility needs to ensure the centre's ongoing financial sustainability.”To sign the petition visit