Campaigners supporting the Victoria Recreation Ground and Pavilion in Newport have been left stunned today (Friday) that their online open letter to the leader of the Isle of Wight Council smashed through their initial target of 100 signatories in just a matter of hours.
The letter, published by Mr Brian Knight, Chairman of Newport Victoria Sports & Social Club, challenges the threat by the Isle of Wight Council to cease paying the small annual grant that enables the existing volunteers to maintain the pavilion and look after the site. The letter was published online yesterday (Thursday), but by this morning had already been signed by over 130 people, with many adding their own personal messages of support:
Ashley Brett, from Newport, wrote:
“As captain of Newport Cricket Club, it is fundamental that Victoria Recreation Pavilion remains open. Without it, our very successful & highly popular club will cease to exist. Many people’s lives, young & old, will no longer be enriched with the community spirit that surrounds our club.”
Stephen Keyzor from Carisbrooke made the case for the facility by saying:
“The Pavilion and recreation ground are used daily by many people from all walks of life. There are approximately 45 under 18 year olds using the facilities weekly for cricket as well as all the other activities available. A price cannot be put on the amount of enjoyment people get from the ground.”
Isle of Wight Councillor, Chris Whitehouse, whose ward of Newport West includes the facility, posted:
“The Committee running this vital local facility have my unequivocal support for their campaign.”
The Isle of Wight Council had previously issued a statement accusing those who had reported the threat of closure and demolition of the facility as “scaremongering”; but it now transpires that option was specifically identified, at least twice, at a recent meeting by Council Officers as one that might have to be pursued.
Commenting today, Cllr Chris Whitehouse says:
“It is completely unacceptable for an unnamed Council officer to issue a statement impugning the integrity of Members of the Committee who have accurately reported what they were told at a meeting with officers only a few weeks ago. That statement should be withdrawn and an apology given by the Leader of the Council.
“More importantly, the Independent Administration must think again and ensure that a solution to the funding crisis for this vital local facility is found. The Committee want to work with the Council to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome that secures the future of the Recreation Ground on a sustainable basis for decades to come, but that is difficult to do when the Council issues unhelpful, misleading and frankly defamatory remarks which risk bringing the Council into disrepute. Nobody would gain by the closure of this facility and everyone must work together to find a solution to this problem. Clearly, the £17,000 which was diverted by council officers from the Recreation Ground, for which it had been clearly earmarked, should also be returned.”