SOUTHEND Council has been urged to plough cash into urgent repairs and modernisation of sports facilities at Garon Park, to support potential stars of the 2012 Olympics.

June Cork, of Southend Athletics Club, spoke out after plans were revealed for a new cricket centre of excellence and a new Olympic-sized swimming pool at the park in Southend.

Ms Cork welcomed the plans, but said she felt athletics was being neglected.

The 102-year-old club left its covered stand and club house at Southchurch Park in 1994 and relocated to an all-weather track at Garon Park to allow young athletes to train and compete all year round, whatever the weather. A spectator stand was also planned.

Ms Cork said: "No stand was built and there is no covered accommodation for spectators to this day, although a stand was atually included in the original model for the track. The council frequently complains about lack of funds. However, it is losing money when the club and schools are obliged to take their meetings out of town because of the poor facilities.

"What an advertisement for the town's athletic facilities that schools, too, are driven out of Southend for access to appropriate facilities."

Ms Cork said the club had some talented youngsters with the potential to compete at the Olympics in 2012.

She added: "If the town is seeking an Olympic sized swimming pool, then surely it should also be seeking appropriate funding to upgrade the whole complex, including athletics.

"Surely, the athletes of this town, whether members of school teams or those belonging to one of the oldest clubs in Southend, deserve greater respect and encouragement than they have received so far."

David Garston, Southend Council cabinet member for culture, said: "Since taking over this portfoilio in May, I have been looking at how we can help sporting clubs of all types in the town.

"There is a great deal which we would like to do, but we simply don't have the money available. Our funding is very limited and it is going to be a difficult challenge to raise the funds needed for the new Olympic swimming pool.

"I have every sympathy with the athletics club and if they come up with any proposals then I would be happy to discuss them."