Snowsport England accuses borough of not ‘reflecting the true situation’ at Welwyn Garden City ski slope

PUBLISHED: 06:50 22 January 2020

The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.

The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.

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A report discussing Welwyn Garden City’s Gosling ski slope – which is earmarked for potential housing development by the borough – has been described by Snowsports England as not reflecting “the true situation”.

The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.

The sports strategy, launched for Welwyn Hatfield sports halls and outdoor pitches, points out that skiing is very costly and so the slope often does not get regular use.

But Tim Fawke, CEO of Snowsport England, said: "Losing the [140-metre-long dry] slope would be a huge blow to Snowsports - both regionally and locally.

"Bassingbourn [another slope] has been closed for over four years and there is no guarantee it will open again. These facilities are crucial for the sport at grassroots level and for introducing more children into the sport."

Simon Godley, member of Welwyn Garden City Ski Race Club, said him and other users of the dry slope are "angry and frustrated" after reading the report.

The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.

He told the Welwyn Hatfield Times that there is "no evidence or financial data" that skiing is not popular in Welwyn Garden City.

READ MORE: New swimming pool among draft strategy for Welwyn Hatfield sports halls and pitches

"This feels more like an opinion provided by the park's operators, GLL, rather than a conclusion drawn from facts within the report," he said.

"The user data provided by GLL doesn't make any sense as there are a number of months during 2016 and 2018 where the fields are just blank, which hasn't been explained. User data provided separately by the ski club for 2018-19 shows significant increases on numbers from 2017 (provided by GLL), so the conclusion that the 'dry slope no longer attracts the regular use it once did' is simply incorrect."

Mr Godley said another point of "misleading" information in the report surrounds Cambridgeshire's Bassingborn dry ski slope, which might not reopen.

The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.The dry slope, which is included in Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan is earmarked for development, and is opposed by residents. Picture: WGC Ski Club.

"In the report Bassingbourn seem to be highly critical of the facilities at Gosling, and the report seeming to conclude that user figures at Gosling are boosted by skiers from Bassingbourn due to the temporary closure of their slope.

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"This again highly misrepresents the true situation."

This is a sentiment that Bassingbourn Snowsports Club wholeheartedly agrees with. Stuart Payne, its chairman, claims that "the statements in the report" did not come for them, by either written or verbal communication.

"We think they could be statements taken out of context from a counter to petition from several years ago," Mr Payne said.

READ MORE: Gosling Ski Slope in Welwyn Garden City hosts popular events despite ongoing threat of closure

"We totally sympathise with Welwyn Garden City ski club's disappointment at seeing them appear in that consultation document."

Mr Godley, who is also involved in the 'save the slope' campaign, had urged the borough council to reassess the report again and make changes to bring it closer to the real situation.

"In addition, should the council actually move forward with the plan to remove the slope for new housing, they will have to look at relocating the slope or building a new facility in the area, as there are no workable alternative facilities," he said.

"The Hemel Hampstead snow dome is full to capacity and is significantly more expensive to ski there, and the Bassingbourn ski slope is closed for the foreseeable future."

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, which has put the site forward in its Local Plan, said: "We commissioned independent consultants to produce the sports strategy. It follows Sport England's national guidance and methodology and is backed by the national governing bodies of sport and by Sport England.

"Our consultants undertook extensive consultation with sports clubs and governing bodies - including Bassingbourn Ski Club and Welwyn Garden City Ski Race Club - and all parties agreed what was included in the report. The strategy was debated at our cross-party scrutiny group last week and unanimously recommended to cabinet for adoption.

"The next stage is to work together with local sports clubs, and the various national governing bodies for sport, to coordinate and prioritise how we put new and existing resources to the most effective use. This includes developing a masterplan for the Gosling Sports Park site and how it can best meet the needs of residents in the future."

Back in April, more than 400 people gathered on the dry ski slope to protest plans to replace the facility with housing. The protests to save the slope have been popular with residents and politicians alike.

To find out more about the slope visit better.org.uk/leisure-centre/welwyn/gosling-sports-park/ski-gosling-sports-park.

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