Times of Tunbridge Wells 4th August 2021

Page 16



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Weekly Comment

Greg Clark Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells

Wednesday August 4 | 2021

Greg Clark was first elected MP for Tunbridge Wells in 2005. He has held a number of positions in Government, including Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He is currently Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committe.

We need to seize people’s enthusiasm for sport and invest in facilities HOW wonderful to have a summer of sport again. Last year’s curtailed calendar has made this summer’s parade of events even more enjoyable. The heroics of team GB at the Olympics are just the latest pleasures, following the thrilling four weeks of the Euros when England came tantalisingly close to triumph, Wimbledon fortnight and then The Open here in Kent. Test cricket begins today [Wednesday, August 4] and we even have a summer of rugby with the Lions in South Africa. The Premier League starts next week and having renewed my season ticket I am looking forward to another year of ups – and I must admit sometimes downs – of watching Crystal Palace at Selhurst. There a real sense of excitement at local sport coming back with a vengeance. All over my constituency, village cricket teams are enjoying being back on some of the most beautiful greens anywhere. Our local football teams – Tunbridge Wells FC and Rusthall FC – have begun their campaigns already, both this season in the Southern Counties Premier League, with some crunch local derbies to look forward to. Tunbridge Wells RFC begins the new season in just a fortnight. And the Paddock Wood Half Marathon – in aid of the Kent Air Ambulance – is back on September 5. And it’s not all about competition. Three cheers for the return of Parkrun – back on every

Saturday at 9am where runners of all abilities and none are welcomed for a 5km circuit of Dunorlan Park – Tunbridge Wells’ best way to start the weekend. Covid has made us appreciate what we have. The chance to watch or participate in sport reflects the dedication of a legion of community volunteers from coaches to stewards, to the hours spent in front of the computers and on phones organising fixtures and fundraising and keeping clubs running. I’m so grateful to all of the volunteers, who have, over the years, helped my children and countless others enjoy sports in their clubs.

Enthusiast I have been talking to Tom Dawlings, the new Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, about taking this opportunity to boost our sports clubs. He’s a sporting enthusiast and, like me, knows the tremendous commitment and capability of our local clubs. For those clubs who use facilities owned by the Borough Council, I think we should allow them much greater involvement in the running of their grounds – where they want to take it up. Our clubs benefit from people who, in their day jobs, have some of the best and most relevant skills in the country, and we can bring them in more.

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FIGHTING FIT The leisures are now reopen but we need to do more

I also think we should make a post-Covid commitment to increase the availability of sporting facilities. Our population is growing healthier and the council should strengthen policies to support it. In my submission to the Borough Council’s consultation on the new local plan consultation, I have proposed that it should be a firm rule that no playing field should be lost – in whole or part – without an equal or better facility being provided in its place. It should also be a requirement that upgraded facilities at existing venues should be provided

as part of any significant new development. For example, all-weather pitches are increasingly in demand to allow sporting events to take place throughout our wet winters. Eighteen months of Covid has stopped much of our sporting life for the longest time since the last war. Now we are released from lockdown, sport is enjoying a re-birth. Participation and spectators alike are relishing competition, and appreciating what we have missed. Let’s seize this enthusiasm and make enhancing our sporting facilities one of the commitments to a better future that we now make.