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Gymnastics club takes gamble in takeover of Deerness Leisure Centre – Today’s News – News – JournalLive

October 2, 2011 Leave a comment

A COACH at a hugely-successful gymnastics club said he will take a “huge gamble” on Monday when the amateur club takes over the running of a council leisure centre.

Karl Wharton spearheaded a successful bid by the Deerness Valley Gymnastics Club to take over the leisure centre where the club is based at Ushaw Moor, Durham, after council bosses said they could no longer afford to maintain it.

Over the past 20 years, Deerness Valley has become one of Britain’s top gymnastics clubs in acrobatics and tumbling, with over 60 international gymnasts winning more than 50 World and European medals. The club includes three World and four European Champions in its roll of honour.

But the club’s future looked uncertain when Durham County Council announced plans to close its headquarters and five other leisure centres as part of cost-cutting measures.

Now the club will take over the centre after a bid by Karl with the support of 150 parents, to save the gymnastics club and take on running a new gymnastics centre on the site. Karl added: “It is a huge gamble but we are now a registered charity with a huge groundswell of support. Parents of gymnasts who work as electricians, decorators, you name it, have all volunteered to do their bit. We have 150 volunteers which is amazing.”

The club has been the subject of some criticism locally because the leisure centre will no longer be open for five-a-side football, badminton or squash, but Karl said: “We cannot afford to pay staff. We are run by volunteers. So the only activities we can run are gymnastics-related. However, we want to extend a welcome to anybody from toddlers to pensioners who would like to come along to try out some gymnastic activities.

“We will be welcoming anyone who wants to take part in some basic gymnastics, whether it be warm up exercises for older people or fun sessions for toddlers.

I can understand the disappointment of local people who used the centre for other sporting activities but what we have achieved so far is surely better than having the building bulldozed to the ground, which would have been the alternative.”

Karl set up the club in 1989 when he was head of PE at neighbouring Deerness Valley Comprehensive School. He is now a senior lecturer on the Department of Sport Development at Northumbria University.

via Gymnastics club takes gamble in takeover of Deerness Leisure Centre – Today’s News – News – JournalLive.

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“Closing centres will put our health at risk” From The Advertiser Series

THE North-East’s largest council has been accused of putting sports clubs and children’s health at risk by closing three leisure centres.

On Thursday evening, more than 60 angry youngsters staged a noisy protest outside Sherburn Leisure Centre against Durham County Council’s plan to close the centre – and those in Crook and Ferryhill.

The Labour-run council, which faces £125m of cuts over four years, voted to close the three centres earlier this month.

But sports club leaders say the decision puts their future in doubt and the young protestors say their views were ignored.

Andrew Dixon, from Sherburn Vipers tae kwon do club, which has 30 members, said: “If the centre closes, the club would probably cease to exist.

“We’re finding it difficult to find facilities elsewhere. We just want it to stay open, regardless of who runs it.”

Jayne Dixon, from Sherburn Gymnastics Club, which has 45 members aged from five to 15, said: “We’re absolutely devastated. We’ve got nowhere else to turn.”

Laura Reed, 15, who uses the centre’s gym every weekend, said: “I’m very upset.

There’s nowhere else I can use.”

Several community-led bids to take over the three centres, including three bids for Sherburn, were rejected by county councillors as unviable.

However, Sherburn Parish Council chairman Stuart Walton said its bid would be resubmitted, and The Northern Echo understands other bidders are similarly refusing to give up hope.

Council bosses say the centres are costly and need refurbishment and they want to support outdoor sports initiatives.

Terry Collins, the council’s corporate director of neighbourhoods, said it had consulted very widely with leisure centre users and clubs and would work with any clubs affected by closures.

“Our sport and leisure strategy is proof of our longterm commitment to not only continue to support grassroots sport and leisure activities, but to broaden what is on offer and bring it closer to more people,” he said.

The three leisure centres are due to close on Saturday, October 1.

Three other centres were saved. Pity Me’s will stay open on reduced hours, Deerness Gymnastics Club will turn Ushaw Moor’s into a gymnastics academy and Coxhoe Leisure Centre will be run by the community.

“Closing centres will put our health at risk”

Potential for cash claw-back if leisure centres close (From The Northern Echo)

A COUNCIL may have to repay a large proportion of grants totalling £1.7m if a proposal to close leisure centres goes ahead.

Durham County Council will decide the fate of six leisure centres today.

The council’s cabinet will be asked to endorse recommendations to close leisure centres in Ferryhill, Sherburn and Crook, while retaining Abbey Leisure Centre, in Pity Me, with reduced opening hours.

They will be asked to support further negotiations with Deerness Gymnastics Club, which is bidding to run Deerness Leisure Centre, in Ushaw Moor, and the Future Leisure campaign’s proposal to run the centre in Coxhoe.

The recommendations come after a bitter 12-week public consultation in which residents voiced their anger over what many saw as the stripping of a vital service.

It has emerged that the council received grants from Sport England for two of the threatened centres – £1,379,786 for work at Ferryhill Leisure Centre and £327,032 for work at Deerness.

via Potential for cash claw-back if leisure centres close (From The Northern Echo).

Leisure centre talks “a shambles”

CAMPAIGNERS hoping to save struggling leisure centres from closure have vowed to fight on, despite council chiefs raising serious concerns over all but one of their takeover bids.

Community leaders trying to rescue leisure centres in Sherburn, Coxhoe, Pity Me, Ferryhill and Crook have until 10am on Tuesday to convince Durham County Council bosses that their business plans are water tight, or face them recommending closure.

Leisure chiefs raised concerns over their business plans in letters sent on Thursday night.

Only a Deerness Gymnastics Club-led bid to turn Deerness leisure centre, in Ushaw Moor, into a world-class gymnastics academy went unquestioned.

Last night, campaigners were scrambling to reassure council bosses before Tuesday’s deadline.

Stuart Walton, who is fighting to save Sherburn’s centre, said: “I am gobsmacked. It’s a shambles.

But we shall overcome.”

via Leisure centre talks “a shambles” (From The Advertiser Series).

Volunteers to run Deerness Leisure Centre if the axe falls – Today’s News – News – JournalLive

MORE than 100 parents of young gymnasts from an internationally renowned club have volunteered to keep it open if council bosses decide to wield the axe.

Representatives from Deerness Gymnastic Club, which train at Ushaw Moor, near Durham City, handed a 4,000 signature petition to Durham County Council chairman Dennis Morgan yesterday urging civic bosses not to close the sports centre where they train.

But one of the coaches, Glen Wharton, said 120 volunteers had offered to help keep it open if councillors did decide they could no longer afford to run it.

“We have parents in all sorts of trades, electricians, landscapers, joiners. They have all offered to work for nothing to ensure the club survives,” he said.

“We have a thriving club with regional, national, international, European and world champions.

“The parents and supporters are determined it will not close. If we have to we will be prepared to take over the sports centre ourselves.”

Local county councillor John Wilkinson said the uncertainty over the club’s future had already cost them a visit from top East European gymnasts.

“They were due to visit this October but called the visit off. This means the county has lost revenue from hotel bookings and the like,” he said. “What I would not like to see would be for the county to sell the sports centre to a private company which is simply in business to make a profit.

“If the council is unwilling to keep it open themselves they should at least allow the gymnastics club the chance to do so.”

Ushaw Moor Sports Centre is one of six which Durham County Council has threatened to close in order to make savings of £1.2m a year. The others are at Coxhoe, Crook, Ferryhill, Pity Me and Sherburn.

This week community groups from Sherburn and Pity Me handed in initial business plans which they hope will be accepted by the council to allow leisure centres to be run by the community.

County Councillor Mark Wilkes, who supports a steering group trying to keep Abbey Leisure Centre in Pity Me open, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Abbey Leisure Centre to be run by the community, for the community, building on the successes of the past to make the Abbey an inspirational centre. I am particularly keen to support proposals for enhanced facilities for young people and the disabled. It is also clear that this and other proposals being put forward illustrate there is a future for the Centre. It does not need to close and I hope Durham County Council will recognise the enormous potential a community-run facility can offer.”

The council’s neighbourhood services Terry Collins said: “We have had expressions of interest from a number of parties, including businesses and community groups and asked them to submit initial business plans by June 10.”

via Volunteers to run Deerness Leisure Centre if the axe falls – Today’s News – News – JournalLive.

Fighting for their leisure (From The Northern Echo)

Deerness Gymnastics Club wants to help create a world-class gymnastics academy at Deerness Leisure Centre, in Ushaw Moor.

There are also community-led campaigns to save the Crook, Coxhoe and Pity Me centres.

Sherburn, meanwhile, is the subject of two community proposals – one promising more facilities than the other.

The Pity Me and Deerness proposals were handed in to County Hall yesterday, while the two Sherburn plans were submitted on Wednesday.

via Fighting for their leisure (From The Northern Echo).

Leisure centre closure consultation had just 37 responses From The Northern Echo

A QUESTIONNAIRE which helped shape the strategy to close six North- East leisure centres received only 37 responses, from the public, The Northern Echo can reveal.Durham County Council’s Sport and Leisure Strategy is cited as one of the main factors behind the council’s decision to consult on closing six indoor leisure facilities.

However, only 37 people completed questionnaires during a consultation on the strategy, and campaigners fighting to save the leisure centres say without proper consultation, the document has no mandate.The council says it carried out other consultation, including workshops and focus groups, over the plans for centres in Ferryhill, Crook, Coxhoe, Pity Me, Sherburn and Ushaw Moor.

via Leisure centre closure consultation had just 37 responses From The Northern Echo.