Mildenhall is district's 'poor relation'

Reg Barker is calling for improved sports facilities in Mildenhall
Reg Barker is calling for improved sports facilities in Mildenhall

A sportsman says the time has come to ‘blow the whistle’ on the lack of up-to-date sporting facilities in Mildenhall.

Reg Barker, who has been involved with sport in the town for more than 40 years, says county, district and parish councillors have failed to prioritise Mildenhall’s needs and that the town is now the ‘poor relation’ in Forest Heath.

Mr Barker, who teaches sport at a Mildenhall’s Great Heath Primary School and is an FA referee at semi-professional level, has produced a list to illustrate the facilities he claims are lacking the town.

He said the only outdoor football pitch was at Mildenhall Town FC, which had no indoor training facilities, the swimming pool was usable but in a poor condition, there were no up-to-date all-weather training surfaces and nowhere suitable indoors for the long-established Mildenhall Cricket Club to train during the winter. There was also nowhere for the town to establish a rugby club.

“The last sports facility that was built in Mildenhall was The Dome and that was 35 years ago and it is now well past its best,” he said.

Mr Barker said youngsters playing in youth football teams had to be taken to train at Witchford, while young gymnasts and swimmers also train elsewhere.

“It really came home to me when a 10-year-old pupil from Great Heath Primary School swam an outstanding 25m in 17.69secs to win her event in a recent school swimming gala. She trains three times a week at Newmarket swimming pool. At the moment the facilities we do have are provided piecemeal and on the cheap - it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with too many missing pieces,” he said.

Mr Barker said he hoped the £38 million Mildenhall Hub project might go some way to providing the sporting facilities needed but doubted whether it was the complete solution.

Speaking after the Hub got the green light from planners last November, Forest Heath Council leader James Waters said it was a major step towards realising the council’s ambitions for Mildenhall and the surrounding area.
“We want to deliver better school and leisure facilities for our growing population. The facilities we have now are not fit for purpose,” he said.

“The Mildenhall Hub is the answer and brings a new school, leisure facilities, larger swimming pool, health centre, library and other public services together on one site close to the heart of the existing town centre.”