The Motion, as printed in the Agenda was proposed by Councillor Fletcher and seconded by Councillor Byrne. The Motion read as follows:
That this chamber recognises the unique community value of the Grangewaters Outdoor Education Centre as a place where our young people learn the skills, values and understanding of their environment that our borough urgently needs; and as an essential training facility for local groups as diverse as schools, triathletes and the Grays yacht club and that this chamber urges Cabinet to halt any plans to sell or close the centre.
Councillor Fletcher presented his motion. Councillor Fletcher was very passionate to preserve this community asset where a lot of fabulous work had been undertaken by the centre to local schools and with schools and students from outside the borough. The centre offered a wide group of activities including the Angling Club that attracted a lot of interest and was self-sustained, the Thurrock Yacht Club used the centre as a safe place for training, and there was a Residential Centre and the lake for open water training for triathletes. The centre served as a valuable purpose to the community and did so in a sustainable manner and even during Covid the centre had came in at around net zero cost. The centre was able to this because of its reputation and being able to offer services that were unique. The centre was not just a community hub but was self-sustaining and at no cost to the council to keep the centre open. If the services were marketed more effectively those services could increase the income coming in. This improved the council’s reputation and had set good examples of health and wellbeing. There was no downside to this facility, this was not a difficult decision and urged members to support this proposal, to look at ways to work with the centre, not to shut it, not to sell it but to maximise the possibilities of the community hub.
Councillor Byrne agreed with the comments made by Councillor Fletcher.
Councillor Coxshall stated there were no plans at this stage to close this facility but whether the council should be running such a facility. This would be looked at and how that facility was ran. That it was good practice to look at all facilities and how improvements could be made. Look at where we were, what facilities were being offered, would it be better ran by the community and would be open to conversations with a wide range of people across the borough on how best to run this facility.
Councillor Johnson echoed Councillor Coxshall’s comments and stated the lake would not be big enough for all 400 members of the angling club, the yacht club only now used Grangewaters as it could no longer use Stubbers. Had conversations with Head Teachers who had stated that Grangewaters was not fit for purpose. This was not a statutory duty of the Council to run this facility and agreed the Council could not run this facility properly and needed to listen to the community. Councillor Johnson had asked Officers to make a note of how many people used and attended the open day scheduled for the 4 December.
Councillor Muldowney stated as part of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee had heard from officers how much use the post 16 year old SEND children got from the facilities at Grangewaters, a provision made in response to the SEND Ofsted inspection. Councillor Muldowney questioned Councillor Johnson’s comments about schools not using the facility but it was acceptable to be used by the most vulnerable. Councillor Muldowney echoed the comments made by Councillor Fletcher and having spoken with residents and how passionate they were of Grangewaters, the facilities that it offered and being a safe place to teach these sports. That outdoor education was absolutely essential for all children and this venue supplied outstanding facilities that would help us recover from Covid.
Councillor Spillman stated the point of the review was to open doors and look for greater potential for an underused asset. That opening this asset up for consideration would open it up to other activities and possibly seasonal events.
Councillor Johnson stated in response to Councillor Muldowney’s comment regarding sending most vulnerable children to Grangewaters but not good enough for some schools, that most of the use by schools was with children with special educational needs and they enjoyed those facilities. The question that should be asked was should the Council be running this facility and whether it could be done better by someone else.
Councillor Worrall stated the successes of Grangewaters were not shouted out enough, agreed much more could be offered and that it should be a residential site that required a complete overhaul to make it into a real money spinner. Councillor Worrall stated that other authorities were able to offer residential courses and questioned why Thurrock could not. That the site needed investment and a refresh to secure it for the future.
Councillor Gledhill stated those outside organisations who were community based had the facility to attract extra money that the Council could not do and would be voting against the motion as the Council had to continue to see what could be provided that was better.
Councillor Fletcher summed up by stating there were shared opinions of the site and an agreement more could be done with this asset but disagreement on whether Grangewaters should be sold and whether this was the answer. That it was great news there was no intention of closing the facilities and its value was appreciated and asked all members to consider what more could be done, what marketing could be undertaken to make the most of the facilities and questioned was there not just another way forward.
The Mayor called a vote on the motion to which the majority of members voted against this motion to which the Mayor announced the motion lost.