Closure of Social Club described as "blow to the community"
PLANS to call time on a popular venue in Rocester have been described as a bitter blow to the community.
Digger giants JCB have revealed the Lakeside Social Club will close its doors for the final time on January 1.
The company will instead upgrade sports facilities next to its world headquarters and says the Station Road club, which first opened more than 45 years ago, will be used for ‘different purposes’ from 2018 onwards.
Mick Smith, chairman of the Social Club management committee, said he’d been left ‘gutted’ by the news.
He said: “We only found out that the club would be closing on Monday so it’s still sinking in.
“Everyone was shocked to be honest – we’re frustrated and bitterly disappointed.
“The club has meant a lot to many people over the years, so this is a bitter blow not only to residents in Rocester but to the wider community.”
Retired Mick, aged 72, said the Social Club has almost 5,000 members, as JCB workers are enrolled automatically.
But he admitted use of the facility, which employs a full-time manager, part-time secretary, two cleaners and casual bar staff, had dwindled in recent years.
“Week nights have been down for a while on what they once were, but there are still a good number of sports clubs based here and groups from all over the area come here for functions and charity events on a regular basis.
“Weekends are generally still very busy, we have a lot of bookings taking us up to Christmas and we had a number of wedding receptions booked in for next year, so the decision will have a big impact on a lot of people.
“I’m not sure what will happen with staff – I think that’s yet to be decided.”
Mr Smith, who worked for JCB for 45 years and still lives in Rocester, said the club would close its doors for the final time on January 1.
He added: “We’ve got a function planned for New Year’s Eve and we’ll go out with a bang.”
Parish councillor Dennis Barlow described the news as ‘very disappointing’.
He added: “The club has been part of village life for so long and it will be very much missed.”
A JCB spokesman said: “The Lakeside Club first opened over 45 years ago when times were very different.
“Fewer people choose to spend their leisure time in social clubs nowadays, so after careful consideration, we’ve taken the difficult decision to close it down at the end of the year.”
Sports facilities next to the factory, which include turf and all-weather football pitches, changing rooms and a bowling green, will be upgraded at a cost of £75,000.
The spokesman added: “Health and fitness have become more important in people’s lives in recent years, so the JCB Lakeside Club’s sports facilities are being used a lot more by employees and local sports clubs.
“Upgrading the pitches and changing facilities will give users an even better experience and hopefully encourage even more people to use them.”
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