Campaigners have accused Ongar Town Council of showing "total disregard for the community" after it unanimously rejected their plans for the management of a sports centre.

The authority is set to take over the facility in Love Lane in February when Ongar Social and Sports Club's lease expires.

Club supporters submitted a petition with 570 signatures to the authority’s Finance Committee on July 20th calling for affordable sport to be maintained under community management. 

But only three of the committee's nine members were in attendance and they rejected the proposal.

Campaigners now fear the council's plans will push up prices which could lead to the closure of the centre.

A joint statement from John Reynolds and John Rigglesworth, two residents involved with the petition, said: “The decision to refuse the petition’s request on the basis of no dissent from only three people was totally unacceptable and undemocratic.

“Because the petition was addressed to the full council it should have been considered by the full council.”

It continued: “At such a meeting, each aspect of the petition's requests should be responded to with detailed reasoning based on the wider local situation and the wishes of the community that the councillors represent.

“The public have a right to know how the council's proposals can deliver the results they keep promising.”

It added: “Failure to adequately consider the significance of the petition and the wishes of the people the council represents, shows total disregard for the community.

“The council is about to embark on a voyage of discovery with public monies, which will inevitably lead to further large increases to council tax and/or the cost of local sport.

“This may well end in failure and closure of the Love Lane facilities.”
Ongar town clerk, Aimi Middlehurst said Finance Committee members decided to uphold a previous decision by full council.

She said: “A third of the members of the committee must be in attendance for the meeting to take place which was the case at the Finance Committee meeting of July 3.

“The council’s structure requires the Finance Committee to review items with regard to the Ongar Social and Sports Club prior to the full council. 

“The committee acknowledged the petition but did not wish to reconsider the full council decision to terminate the lease given the previous history of disrepair and to safeguard public safety within the site.”

The council's business plan for the centre will be reviewed at a Finance Committee meeting scheduled for 14th August.

It is due to go before full council on August 28 if approved and the petition will also be considered.

The town council published the results of a public consultation about the future of the sports centre last month following responses from 88 people.

Basketball, bowls and table tennis came out top in a respondents’ ‘wish list’ of sports they wanted to see at the site.