Vicky has written to the City Council to express her deep concern regarding youth access restrictions for 14 and 15 year olds at Riverside Leisure Centre. In a letter to Cllr Stephen Robinson – see below - the Leader of Chelmsford City Council, Mrs Ford wrote that the Council’s amended ‘gym usage policy’ sends out a highly negative message that young people are not wanted, valued or trusted.
Vicky Ford MP wrote:
“Dear Cllr Robinson,
Re: Riverside Leisure Centre, Access for Young People
I am writing to express my deep concern about the recent decision to restrict access for 14 and 15 year-olds at Riverside Leisure Centre. I understand that the gym usage policy has been amended so that 14 and 15 year-olds must be accompanied by a paying parent or guardian when using the gym after 5.30pm on weekdays.
This policy has caused great distress to many young people in Chelmsford. It sends out a highly negative message that they are not wanted, valued or trusted. As Member of Parliament for Chelmsford I frequently meet with young people in schools, clubs or voluntary organisations. The vast majority of our young people are caring, considerate and wanting to make a positive impact on our communities.
I am aware that Riverside had received some complaints about the behaviour of certain young people in the gym. However, it appears completely disproportionate to punish all young users as a result. There is no other group in society where all members would be banned based on the actions of a small section of that group.
Research shows that physical activity helps people in a number of different ways. It helps them to maintain a healthy weight, improve behaviour, self-confidence, and for younger people it also enhances attention levels and performance at school.
Across our country, the number of young people with an unhealthy and potentially dangerous weight is a national public health concern. In order to tackle childhood obesity, it is vital that we support more young people to lead active and healthy lifestyles. Furthermore, evidence shows that providing safe environments for young people to engage in activity helps to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Instead of supporting healthy, inclusive choices the decision to limit access to the Riverside Leisure Centre sends a highly negative message.
Riverside Leisure Centre is a flagship facility in Chelmsford. It is owned by Chelmsford City Council on behalf of all the people of Chelmsford and it should be inclusive.”