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Family Focused Services set to Flourish in Ashton
Tuesday 6th September, 2005

Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) are putting families first in Ashton-in-Makerfield. In a new drive to get people across Wigan Borough physically, mentally and creatively active, through the Getting Wigan Active initiative, the Trust is determined to ensure family-focused services flourish at a very local level. This has been demonstrated recently in some of the initiatives within the Ashton area.

A prime example of how the Trust are striving to put families first is the much debated decision as to whether skateboarding should be included in Alexandra Park. A well-articulated case has been put forward by enthusiastic young skateboarders within the town, with the Trust receiving a petition of over 100 signatures and regular e-mails from young people in support of the facility.

At Monday night’s Ashton/Bryn Township Forum, Rodney Hill, Chief Executive of WLCT, explained that the Trust had been so impressed with the enthusiasm and support for the scheme in Ashton from young people that they were going ahead with raising funding for the scheme. Rodney said, “I think it is important that all our services are targeted at all age ranges within the family. The advice we received from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is that Alexandra Park would be an ideal location for a skateboarding facility, complementing the range of other provision.”

“The immediate local residents have expressed concerns, but our consultation indicates that, across the community of Ashton, there is support for this. The Trust’s agreement to include the skateboard facility is on the condition that we will offer an opportunity for local residents to meet with young skateboarders, whom we hope, will reduce their concerns,” continued Rodney. “Once the facility is installed, we will review the situation after a year to see how it develops.”

In a recent study by Sport England it was discovered that only 25% of 16 to 24 year-olds participate regularly (three times a week) in physical activity. It is thought that ‘extreme sports’ and skateboarding in particular appeals to this particular age group, because unlike mainstream sports, skateboarding doesn’t require a fixed structure of teamwork and practice.

Rodney Hill points out, “I think it is important that children and young people are integrated into the life of the community. There was a notion that skateboard facilities should be remote from other community provision. I think this is a prime example of how young people are being marginalised.”

Getting Wigan Active is about much more than just this one issue, it is about improving the opportunity to get active for all members of the family. The Freestyle (free-swimming for 16 and under initiative) has been an amazing success since its launch in April this year. The number of child swims across the Borough is up by 24,000 (45% increase on 2004) since its launch. Adult swimming has also seen an upturn with 5,000 more swims taking place, an 8% increase on 2004.

This family focus is further demonstrated in the approaching refurbishment of Ashton Library. The refurbishment of the facility, together with the introduction of the new Explore brand (successfully established at Golborne library) will breathe life into an ageing library and will provide families, adults, children and young people with learning opportunities in a more appropriate and invigorating environment. Ashton Library will also be opening on Sundays to encourage families to visit the library at a more convenient time for them.

“I am delighted that we have been overwhelmingly supported by the people of Ashton for these initiatives and only disappointed that a very small but vocal minority seem to be so prejudiced against young people,” summarised Rodney.

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