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MARTINEAU LATEST: NO COMMENT

25-02-2010

Peter Millington, editor of the Harborne Gazette and the Spaghetti Gazetti blog reports on the latest developments at the Marineau Centre - a community asset being flogged off by the City Council to fund city centre decelopments.

Martineau Centre

Deserted - the gymnasium at the Martineau Centre whilst local teams struggle to find facilities

As the questions pile up from Harborne and Quinton residents about the future of the Martineau community building in Balden Road, local councillors including the city’s leader Mike Whitby have declined to comment on speculation around its closure and sale.

With the formation of a resident led campaign group called the Martineau 10, questions are now being asked of councillors about the perceived lack of transparency over the strategy to close down the centre which began over two years ago.

In a recent petition presented to councillors on 25th February, the Martineau 10 claim that the closure of the Martineau Centre is ultimately connected to the need to finance the development of multi million pound city centre projects such as the new central library:

“All community use of this building has been stopped without a reason being given, despite its copious use as a venue for major meetings of the Council to inform staff of new plans. Will the Ward Committee please request and require its reopening for Community use in the interim period? For meetings and other events.

“It is clear that non-use of the premises has been used as grounds for the eventual closure when the new City Centre premises become available. Let the community have access to prove the validity or otherwise of this assumption. The lack of clarity and timeliness of invoicing for use of the facilities has been a factor, as has the closure of the swimming pool on the complex due to failure of stress tests. Freedom of Information enquiries are being made to assess the validity of estimates for the repair and continued use of this pool.

“Mere politeness has prevented local unease to grow into outrage at the loss of this facility as it is larger and more useful for many activities than is the Quinborne Centre. Though the loss of that too would be a local disaster.”

Questions about the future of the Martineau Centre were put to the 6 local councillors of Harborne and Quinton and to the local MP by the editor of the Harborne Gazette in February and a response has only been received from MP Gisela Stuart who told us:

“You raise some very pertinent questions. At the recent Ward Committee meeting it was said that the Council have made arrangements for staff to be re-allocated. Fact, the staff are being moved out. Fact, the building is no longer to be used. Fact, there are no longer any classes going on,

“The building will be disposed of… and the response that residents are to “be consulted”, “no decision has yet be made” and that any decision “will have to be approved by full cabinet in 2012/13” doesn’t amount to a row of beans.

Local people will be faced with a disused building and any campaigns to save it will be meaningless. A bit like the years of neglect by Graingers of the Moorpool Estate.

“The reassurances by the Council amount to no more than taking local people for fools. In the absence of a categorical assurance by the leader of the council and the chair of the constituency that under no circumstances will the Martineau be demolished and /or sold, what we have been told so far is what the late Tory grandee Alan Clark would have called “being economical with the truth”

Information has come to light that amenities such as the Martineau Centre’s swimming pool, gymnasium and playing fields have been closed for the past two years, whilst amateur and youth sports teams are travelling out of the area to find training and competition amenities.

With the closure of Harborne’s swimming pool and fitness gymnasium for rebuilding work that will take a minimum of 2 years, local schools are now faced with busing children from Harborne, Edgbaston and Quinton to pools in other parts of the city if they wish primary aged children to learn to swim.

Equipment from the fitness gymnasium is being located in parts of the Quinborne Community Centre and Library with the closure of Quinborne’s popular bar to accommodate the equipment.

The Martineau Centre campus also includes an area of allotments which is very popular with local residents old and young. When questioned on these issues from an unsettled audience at a Quinton ward committee meeting in February local councillor Len Clarke is quoted by a member of the Martineau 10 as having said "there are always wild rumours around election time”.

Wild rumours at election time or a conspiracy of silence at the Council House? Gazette readers will no doubt make up their own minds. If you want to support the Martineau 10 campaign, visit the group’s website at http://www.yourmartineaucampus.co.uk/

Martineau Centre - Pool

Empty - while local school children are bused around the city for lessons

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