Exeter City council have voted to close down and sell off a long-established ski slope in order to raise funds to invest in the city’s sports centres.
The volunteer-run Exeter Ski Club has been established for more than 50 years and over the decades had taught tens of thousands of people to ski or board. It is a highly valued community asset, with a particular focus on teaching children and disabled people and a petition to save the slope had been signed by more than 2,600 people. A number of these were protesting against the threat to close their slope at the council meeting on Tuesday night.
The council’s own Scrutiny Committee had said selling the slope was a bad idea, but the full council decided to sell the slope for housing development. It is located on part of a larger area of Council land and the Labour group in favour of the sale argued that, if the ski slope was excluded from that, less than half of the potential sale value would be achieved for the overall land area, and that they would then not raise the money needed to invest in other sports centres in the city. They are particularly keen to rebuild a sports centre damaged by fire which apparently was not insured.
The sole Green council member despite the likelihood of the council’s maths on the sale being correct, commenting,
“…ridiculous claim from Exeter Labour that excluding the ski slope from the Clifton Hill sale could reduce potential income from £9m to £4m. Loss of a 30-yard sliver of land, about 8% of the land, worth £5m, really? Genuine representation of the people is on a slippery slope in this city.”
There were mixed messages from councillors voting to close the slope on what the future, if anything, is for Exeter Ski club without its home. One said they’d try to help but couldn’t promise anything, another, Cllr Luke Sills, was a little more proactive, promising,
“…we are desperate to work with the ski club to relocate you and find you a new location, and I believe it will be a real one, not a virtual one.” Another Councillor Richard Branston said, “The council should secure an alternative ski slope site in Exeter.”
Councillors voted 23 votes to nine to close the slope, with all Labour councillors, including the one whose ward the slope is in, voting for the slope closure, and Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors against.
There has been a strong reaction against the Council’s decision. One skier, Sam Pyne, writing on Facebook, said,
“I’m one of the members of Exeter ski club and I’m training for the Deaf Olympics and I really need the Exeter ski club to stay open so that I can fulfil my dream, and many others too!”