Net closed on basketball team

1st October 2004 at 01:00
To Leicester, where the towering presence of members of the city's basketball team proved no match for a group of angry residents.

The Leicester Riders are the latest organisation to get caught up in the row over the Highfields Youth and Community Centre, in a deprived part of the city.

As we report this week (page 8), the once-modest centre now has a recording studio, new classrooms, a gym and an indoor sports hall after more than Pounds 4 million was raised from Europe and other sources. The money was raised after a lot of hard work over several years by Highfields Community Association.

But funding problems and a dispute between the association and council over who should run the centre have left the facilities under-used, including the spanking new sports hall. You might think this makes Leicester no different from any other bureaucratic local authority. But that would be unfair.

Quick to spot an opportunity created by the under-used hall, the council told the Riders they can use it for practice. The request was only made last weekend, I understand, but the club turned up to use the facilities on Monday - a remarkable example of the wheel of local government turning at lightning speed.

But like so many rushed decisions, letting the Riders use the facilities without consulting local residents has backfired.

The players turned up to find themselves confronted by a group of residents angry that, while they are not being allowed to manage the centre, the plush building they created is being used at the whim of a council which has been accused of starving it of cash.

After an earful from the residents, the Riders rode off into the sunset. So it's Highfields Community Association one, Leicester Riders nil.

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