SOS – Save our Squash courts

   High Peak Borough Council is proposing to replace the squash court in New Mills Leisure Centre with a wellness centre.

·       The community have rallied together against the proposal, with over 700 people signing a petition and more than 50 attending a protest.

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

New Mills residents are fighting to preserve their much-loved local squash court, a valued community fixture for over four decades. The court now faces the risk of closure, as High Peak Borough Council contemplates replacing it with a wellness centre designed to aid individuals recovering from serious illnesses.

More than 50 people attended a protest to ask for the squash court to be saved, and  700+ have also signed a petition. The campaign recognises the value of the wellness centre, but argues that its creation should not be at the expense of the squash court.

New Mills Squash Club estimates that more than 200 people use the court over a three-month period, highlighting its popularity and importance to the community.

Local squash lover Jo-Anne Witcombe explains the value of the court to the community: “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 racket!

The court is also used for countless junior sessions, men’s league matches and ladies’ squash nights. New Mills has had a mixed team in the North-West Counties Squash League for more than 40 years. Ripping out a purpose-built, tailor-made facility would be a thoughtless act of destruction and can easily be avoided.”

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.”

Squash enthusiasts and community members also stress the importance of the sport in bringing different generations together.

Matthew Thomas – who started the petition – has been running junior sessions for the past 10 months alongside fellow coach Simon Barlow: “We have around 30 young people aged 5–16 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.”

Advocates also point out that 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 large swathes of people.

Proposed changes don’t 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.  

Dismayed mother and badminton player Natalie Hadden says “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. The overall proposal from the council means less of everything – fewer sports to choose from, fewer opportunities for competitive sports, no squash, reduced school and group activities. It misses the point of a community leisure centre.” 

The proposed changes appear to contradict the council’s Move More strategy, which aims to promote physical activity and combat inactivity in the area. According to a report underpinning the strategy, New Mills is far less active than surrounding areas, with almost 20% of residents classed as “inactive”. Community members argue that eliminating the squash court and reducing the size of the sports hall would worsen the issue by taking away opportunities for physical exercise.

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. Elaine Aitken, who has lived in New Mills for over 50 years, points out the crucial role the community have played in the Leisure Centre’s history, “This is a facility which was set up alongside the swimming pool and paid for by people of New Mills in the 1980s. Money was raised by a hard-working committee of volunteers who organised the carnivals, discos and many other events. This is a valuable space used by a growing number of people. A facility built and paid for by their parents and grandparents.”

As the debate intensifies, community members continue to voice their concerns, urging the council to reconsider their proposal. They stand united in their plea to consider alternative options and to involve them in the decision-making process.

2 thoughts on “SOS – Save our Squash courts”

  1. Squash and racket ball is getting more and more popular, keeping people of all ages active, from 7 to 77! What an appalling idea to get rid of it. The community fundraised for it in the first place in the 1980s. It belongs to the community!

  2. Please save the squash court! My grandsons will be heartbroken if their squash court is taken away. How can it be sensible to remove the means to be well, in order to provide a facility for people who are not well! They might have been well if they’d played squash! Please honour the work of the fundraising former generations of New Mills. Please save the squash court!

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