Olympics bring sport groups a £4m boost

Bicester Advertiser: Members of sports groups using the Stratfield Brake facilities, including Gosford All Blacks Rugby Club chairman David Hipkiss, front left, welcome the new funding. Picture: Andrew Walmsley Members of sports groups using the Stratfield Brake facilities, including Gosford All Blacks Rugby Club chairman David Hipkiss, front left, welcome the new funding. Picture: Andrew Walmsley

MORE than £4m is to be invested in north Oxfordshire sports facilities after a surge in interest following the Olympics.

Cherwell District Council is set to establish an “Olympic Legacy Fund” for football, cricket, rugby, hockey, athletics and tennis.

And it has already identified four projects in Kidlington, Bicester and Banbury that will benefit from the first £925,000.

They are:

  • A replacement £180,000 artifical sports pitch for Kidlington & Gosford Leisure Centre
  • A replacement £165,000 athletics track at Banbury’s North Oxfordshire Academy school, which is open to the public and home to Banbury Harriers Athletics Club
  • A £80,000 contribution towards £130,000 plans to refurbish pitches and buildings at Stratfield Brake sports facilities, near Kidlington.
  • A further £450,000 towards a planned Bicester Sports Village at the Kingsmere estate, for a pavilion, car park, paths and floodlighting. It has already given cash for pitches.

A council report is recommending members of the authority’s ruling executive to approve the fund at a meeting on Monday.

It says: “There is clear evidence of an increased interest in participating in sport.”

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Clubs had seen a greater turnout at open days while CDC had received more entries to the Cherwell Sports Awards and double the demand for children’s holiday activies, it said.

The report added that the council should “concentrate on the most popular sports as a means of addressing the majority of public demand”.

The council hopes to raise up to £1m from other sources and says it could use cash from reserves and expected contributions from developers as part of new housing schemes. It could also use a New Homes Bonus grant from the Government it got for increasing the number of homes in the district.

The cash for Stratfield Brake was welcomed by Kidlington Cricket Club and Gosford All Blacks Rugby Club, among the teams which use the facility.

Rugby club chairman David Hipkiss said the pitches needed work to bring them up to scratch again after the heavy rainfall during 2012.

He said: “If we can get our pitches up to standard, particularly the training area then that would be a huge step forward for us.”

Although rugby is not an Olympic sport until Rio 2016, he said there was now an “appetite for more sport” and the club had seen a 15 per cent increase in membership this season.

Cricket club chairman John Moss said the cash would “help sustain the facility as one of the leading sporting facilities in Oxfordshire”.

It is managed by Kidlington Parish Council and Gosford and Water Eaton Parish Council. Kidlington chairman David Betts said it had enough cash to start work “fairly quickly”.

He added: “There is renewed interest in sport, particularly at the younger end and that is something we want to encourage.”

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