AN AMBITIOUS sporting project in Middlewich looks doomed to fail unless support from residents can convince backers of its need.
Directors of the £37m plans for a major sports centre featuring an Olympic-sized pool say they may have to take it to another town if they cannot convince financial supporters of the need for it in Middlewich.
Sport England, which would be one of the major backers, said it still cannot see the justification for the project in rural Cheshire and is keen to see evidence of support from local people and sporting bodies for the complex.
The funding body says it has been waiting since July - when it met Midpoint Sports Ltd's directors - for additional information to help it decide whether to support the submission.
Midpoint Sports Ltd, run by Middlewich man Michael Davey and business partner Marjory Issatt, wants to build a major leisure complex that would be home to the England basketball team, feature an array of courts for tennis and badminton, areas for martial arts and act as a base for local sports groups.
It says it has the backing of governing bodies such as the Lawn Tennis Association, the Badminton Association of England and British Swimming, but believes the key to getting the support of Sport England lies in demonstrating a local need.
Ms Issatt fears Sport England would prefer to support developments in more deprived areas such as Moss Side in Manchester, where justification for the development would be easier to prove.
But she said: 'Setting up in somewhere deprived would be too expensive, costing more in areas such as vandalism and high insurance, so we would have to consider somewhere like Stoke.
'There is European funding available there and places available to build - but we just don't want to do that. We want to develop in this town and in this area. This is where we live and we want to do something for the people of Cheshire.'
Ms Issatt and Mr Davey are calling on people to show their support by writing letters, which the company can use as evidence of the need for the development when the time comes.
But Sport England will need some convincing.
Alastair Phillips, senior sport and environmental manager, said: 'We have received a submission from Midpoint Sport seeking funding through Sport England's Community Investment Fund.
'We met representatives from Midpoint Sports Ltd on July 14, and we asked for more information, including justification.'
'We asked them to look at their financial positioning, whether the project will be financially sustainable, the facility mix and why there are proposals of such scale in rural Cheshire. Furthermore we asked them to look at planning regulations.
'We asked them to get back to us with further information. I asked them again in August but I have had no further dealings with Midpoint Sports Ltd.'
He added: 'They need to give us evidence they have strong support from the sports governing bodies but we have had no evidence of that on this application yet.
'It would be inappropriate to say if we support the application at this stage.
'It is an objective of Sport England to increase participation in sport and one way to do that is improve facilities and infrastructure but at the moment we haven't got any justification for this development.'
Midpoint Sports Ltd admits it has no written support from the public so far, but is adamant it has documentation to back its bid from governing bodies.
Middlewich mayor Jim Basford is 100% in support of the development, and is calling on the developers to press on. He said: 'It's definitely the sort of facility we want. You can't get out of this town without crossing water yet there's nowhere for our young people to learn to swim.
'The facility would be great for the area as a whole and I'm sure it would be well utilised by people in Middlewich.
'But I'm slightly disappointed Midpoint Sports is saying it might go elsewhere when it also says it is committed to Middlewich.'