'Uncertain future' for well-known Worksop arena after bosses ‘bewildered’ by council financial aid snub

The general manager of North Notts Arena says he is ‘bewildered’ by Bassetlaw Council’s ‘lack of support’ after the community-run building was turned down for Covid-19 financial help.

Nigel Turner told how he was presented with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ options when applying for a share of a discretionary council grant worth over £1 million.

Labelling the online application ‘unfair’ Nigel described how after answering ‘yes’ he was ‘kicked out’ of the online form.

The council says under the scheme small businesses with rateable values of under £100,000 which have not qualified for any other form of Government financial help can apply for grants of up to £25,000 - with each application individually assessed after the closing date.

Trustees celebrating the hand over of the Arena in 2006 with David Payne, David Willey, Sheila Turner, Andy Turner and Nigel Turner from left.

However Nigel, frustrated by the automated online decision, said: “In my opinion with an application for a discretionary grant the council should be able to sit down in a panel and make a decision.

“This funding allows the council the discretion to support any business they feel worthy without recourse from the Government.”

Nigel, 65, who took over the running of the arena, on Eastgate, in 2006 as registered charity North Notts Community Leisure Ltd, was previously turned down for the Government’s small business fund as the building’s rateable value was too high.

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As well as a lifeline for 70-plus bowls players and the disabled with weekly structured activities the building provides a venue for charity events such as Worksop’s Got Talent, Christmas pantos and nurtures talented - such as young snooker players Ashley Carty and Haydn Staniland who are both through to the Snooker World Championship qualifiers this month.

However without financial help Nigel says the future is uncertain for the precious community asset.

North Notts Arena - which has generated £6.8 million for the local economy during the last 14 years - has spent £15,000 keeping the building running since lockdown began with no income.

Nigel and 12 other part-time staff members hope to reopen on July 25 - however with numbers permitted to use the building almost halved by Covid-19 safety restrictions the general manager says the venue ‘will be lucky’ if it survives the festive period.

Nigel Turner with Worksop's Got Talent 2019 host Kym Marsh

He said: “In normal times we have over 2,000 people attending every week - but I can’t see that happening now.

“Last Christmas we raised £84,000 with four parties but there’s no way that will happen this year.

“This is just so unfair and we’re very disappointed that Bassetlaw District Council don’t see the value North Notts Arena provides.

Alison Dolby's instructors - Maria Butkeraitis, Debbie Hunt, Amy Greenwood, Michelle Layden, Julie Christian, Phillipa Hayes and Sam Scott

“This is a council building that we’ve improved over the last 14 years so we’re asking the council to review this decision and I would like the opportunity to meet with them to discuss it.”

Father-of-three Nigel told how he had applied to five different funding bodies for help including Sport England and the National Lottery however he suspects ‘a lot of people are looking for money at the moment’.

Meanwhile Nigel is planning to start a crowdfunding campaign and fundraising events to keep the building open.

He said: “We won’t go down without a fight.”

Neil Taylor, Chief Executive of Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic we have supported around 2,700 local businesses through government grant payments and reliefs - which is over half the businesses in the district.

"The latest round of funding saw the government set aside just under £1.2 million to further support small businesses in Bassetlaw.

The Cronies indoor bowls team Brian Fox, Gave Gascoyne, Andy Pointon, Ray Taylor and Cameron Gray - winners of the Arena's indoor bowls T League 2019/20 season

"Although this is called the discretionary grant scheme it still comes with guidance and conditions about who local authorities are expected to support and we don’t have full discretion over how this grant is distributed.

“While we sympathise with the position of North Notts Arena they are not classed as a small business and their high rateable value means they are not eligible for the scheme.

"With such a limited pot of money to fund the grants it would be wrong to single out any particular body for special treatment when there are around 52 local businesses with the same rateable value who are in the same position.”

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Arena's 2015 Junior Snooker Academy Annual Presentation with former World Champion Ken Doherty, centre