- Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL
- United Kingdom
Abbey Leisure Centre
Sadly received the news on Monday 21st February 2011 by local press that 5 out of 18 Leisure Centres are been considered for closing down by north-east council bosses.
NORTH-EAST council bosses are considering closing six leisure centres as they continue to struggle with Government cuts, The Northern Echo has learned.
A leaked report shows Durham County Council is considering closing the five of its 18 leisure centres that it feels offer the poorest value for money – subject to public consultation.
Centres in Ferryhill, Coxhoe, Crook, Ushaw Moor, Sherburn and PITY ME are under threat, but the council last night said that no final decisions have been taken.
Abbey Leisure Centre, in Pity Me, is also under threat because of its proximity to other centres that are not affected by the report. The measures could save up to £1.2m a year and are part of a drive to save £125m over four years as cuts to tackle the budget deficit take effect.
Although the council has made it clear it is no longer in a position to fund the six leisure centres, one of its two “exit strategies” suggests third parties could retain the facilities at no cost to the council.
Such a scheme saw the running of the Spectrum Leisure Centre, in Willington, transfer from the former Wear Valley District Council to the Slam Community Development Trust in 2007.
The independent leisure centre charges gym users £5 a session, compared with £7 at Ferryhill, which receives subsidies that equate to an extra £4.31 per visitor.
The second exit strategy proposes demolition and disposal of the sites, which were visited on more than 500,000 occasions by users last year.
Special consideration will be given to clubs and sporting organisations that use the leisure centres.
Deerness Gymnastics Club, which has produced several national champions, has already been singled out as a potential operator for Deerness Leisure Centre, in Ushaw Moor, Durham.
Alternatively, the report suggests “recycling capital receipts” to provide facilities for the club at one of the council’s other sites.
While the report acknowledges a shortage of swimming pools across the county, Glenholme, in Crook – the only one of the six threatened centres to have a pool – costs the taxpayer more than £250,000 a year and needs more than £500,000 in investment.
If implemented, the report says 90 per cent of the county’s residents would still be within ten minutes of a leisure centre.
David Farry, a Durham county councillor for Ferryhill, said the closures would hit the county’s poor the hardest.
He said: “The reality is people from poor households without cars are not going to travel.
“Ferryhill, like many other communities on the shortlist, has already lost investment and provision and cannot afford to lose any more.
“These leisure centres need to be retained and, clearly, they need to be run more efficiently and it is disappointing that the council is quick to just write them off.”
Elsewhere in the region, other councils are facing similar challenges.
We, the undersigned, call on both Durham County Council and the House of Commons to refuse the closing down of Abbey Leisure Centre.
The Save Abbey Leisure Centre petition to Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL was written by Gary Scott and is in the category Sports at GoPetition.