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Olympian backs ice rink campaign.

Byline: Stuart Rayner Sports reporter stuart.rayner@ncjmedia.co.uk

TYNE and Wear's only representative at this year's Winter Olympics has thrown his support behind plans to save Whitley Bay ice rink.

Figure skater Matt Parr, from North Shields, was this week confirmed as part of Team GB for next month's Winter Olympics, which takes place in Sochi.

Although the 23-year-old moved to Dundee as a teenager to further his career in the sport, he learned to skate in Whitley Bay, and still regularly uses it for training.

Under North Tyneside Council's Draft Local Plan, it is one of 110 sites identified for possible future housing projects.

Users of the rink protested against its possible loss earlier this month, with thousands signing a petition calling for it to be retained.

The council says that not all of the sites identified in the plan will be used for housing, but there are concerns that the facility could be lost. "I was away when it was first announced, but I certainly re-posted the petition on Facebook, and would encourage people to sign it," said the three-time national champion, one of four North East-born athletes in the 54-strong squad announced on Tuesday.

He adde: "I would be upset and saddened if it was to be removed.

"It doesn't have the most modern facilities, but it's developed some talent in the area.

"I was seven years-old when I first started training there. I was 11 when I began training at other rinks, and as I got older I moved away more often.

"My mum and dad still live in North Shields, and I'm home maybe once a month, using it when I'm there."

Under North Tyneside Council's Draft Local Plan, 110 potential sites have been identified which could be considered for housing in the future.

The authority is required by the Government to produce the plan to help shape the growth and development of the area over the next 15 years.

The Hillheads Road site has been included in the consultation after it was identified by its owners as somewhere the could be developed. North Tyneside Council has been keen to play down any suggestion that the rink could be demolished, with deputy mayor Bruce Pickard meeting ice hockey players to reassure them the council was opposed to any change of use.

He said: "The Whitley Bay Ice Rink and the adjacent football site is integral to the sport and leisure offer of North Tyneside. I have agreed to meet with them in a few weeks time to see what the council can do to help them and to discuss how we can work better together in the future."

The Local Plan must pass through a series of formal stages before it is formally adopted. This is expected to be in late 2015 and it will then be used to help determine planning applications.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 24, 2014
Words:487
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