Home > leisure, Local Business, sports > Reprieve hope for leisure centres – Deerness Leisure Centre

Reprieve hope for leisure centres – Deerness Leisure Centre

THREE of six council-run leisure centres threatened with closure look likely to be saved, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Durham County Council chiefs will today recommend the closure of centres in Ferryhill, Crook and Sherburn, after concluding that none of the five bids to take over the running of the struggling facilities could be supported.

However, they will back further negotiations over Deerness Gymnastics Club’s plans to reopen Deerness Leisure Centre, in Ushaw Moor, as a gymnastics academy and a community bid to save the leisure centre at Coxhoe.

Abbey Leisure Centre, at Pity Me, looks likely to survive as a council-run facility with reduced opening hours.

Final decisions will be taken by the council’s cabinet next Wednesday.

The Deerness bid had been widely expected to win council support. But officials’ backing for the Future Leisure campaign in Coxhoe, which is supported by Coxhoe Parish Council, comes as a surprise after serious concerns were raised ten days ago.

The council now says it is “hopeful that, with more work, the bid can be moved forward”.

Pity Me’s facility is expected to survive after the council discovered a covenant agreement requiring it should continue as a sports facility until at least 2014. To cut costs, it will only be open at peak times.

The Labour-run council, which faces £125m of spending cuts over four years, including £67m this year, says closing all six leisure centres would save £1.3m a year, while selling the sites would raise about £3m.

Officials say all the authority’s leisure centres are lossmaking and it has more centres per head of population than neighbouring councils.

A 12-week public consultation on the closures ended in May, leading to ten groups submitting 19 takeover bids.

However, the only private company involved in the process, which wanted to run all six, withdrew after concluding they could not be run at a profit.

That left 13 bids from nine community-based groups.

Spectrum Leisure and Management, which runs Spectrum Leisure Centre, in Willington, bid for Sherburn, Coxhoe, Ferryhill and Pity Me, with other community bids for Crook, Sherburn and Pity Me.

While council officials say the bids for Deerness and Coxhoe meet the legal criteria regarding the transfer of staff and satisfy the requirement that the takeovers be at zero cost to the council, they have expressed concerns over the other submitted business plans.

These include supposedly over-ambitious income predictions, reliance on non-existent council funding and a failure to take account of employment law.

Speaking about all the recommendations, Terry Collins, the council’s corporate director of neighbourhood services, said: “I am sure many people may have expected all six to close and it is testament to a great deal of hard work that that looks less likely.”

He added: “We think this is a really good result. We’ve taken this process extremely seriously. We’ve worked very hard to encourage people to make bids.

“We’ve had all the private sector walk away, which has demonstrated the difficulty of running these centres.

“But we’ve worked with the bidders to try to come up with arrangements to satisfy all the requirements.

“We have ended up with nearly 95 per cent of residents still within ten minutes’ drive of a council-run leisure centre.

“We appreciate the disappointment of those bidders that haven’t been successful and we want to thank them for their contribution.

“But we have a responsibility as a council to ensure those bidders that go forward are realistic and can meet all the requirements.”

If the proposals are endorsed by the authority’s cabinet, those leisure centres earmarked for closure could shut, and the Ushaw Moor and Coxhoe centres be handed over to new operators, by October.

Reprieve hope for leisure centres (From The Northern Echo).

Categories: leisure, Local Business, sports
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