Rescue doubts surface in leisure centre report

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

CAMPAIGNERS in Stocksbridge are to keep up the pressure to save the town’s leisure centre in the wake of an independent report indicating “a clear community demand” for a swimming pool and ‘dry’ facilities.

However, the report, which investigated a number of options to try to meet the demand, indicated that there are no apparent solutions without financial help from the city council.

The authority is withdrawing a £400,000 a year subsidy to Stocksbridge on the basis that it has the highest cost per visit to leisure centres in the city - and there is no money for the centre from the end of next month.

The report examined options such as building a new, smaller pool, either in the current location, as part of a proposed retail development off Manchester Road, or as an addition to Stocksbridge High School.

The feasibility of keeping a pool at the 40-year-old leisure centre and demolishing the ‘dry’ side was also investigated.

The report concludes: “It has to be emphasised that it is highly unlikely that any of the alternative options could be delivered at no cost to Sheffield City Council.

“There may be scope for Stocksbridge residents to fund much of the costs of any future local facilities - through user charges and/or the local tax precept - but some may consider it unreasonable and inconsistent for the local community to carry all the costs, including those associated with capital investment, given the history of the centre and how other Sheffield City Council community facilities are treated.”

One of the options was the developers of the Fox Valley retail development paying around £3.5m for a 25 metre four lane pool - in return for rent over 30 years.

Yet doors are being left slightly ajar. “ A potential solution could be to continue to operate the current Stocksbridge Leisure Centre until a new pool can be developed within the town. This may require a period of mothballing prior to a potential reopening to allow a new management solution and a business plan to be developed and to allow any necessary refurbishment.”

The independent assessment does not question any of the city council’s data and its review,.

Campaign group 4SLC is taking legal advice, urging the council to “reverse the current decision, start the consultation process again taking into account the impact to the users in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and for the council to fund and operate the leisure centre”.

The council has asked the group for a detailed business plan by the end of March, but failure to provide financial and other information within time makes this “impossible”, says 4SLC.

With Sport England accepting the need for leisure facilities in Stocksbridge, the group maintains that the subsidy was withdrawn “without adequate consultation and at the expense of the disabled and elderly community in particular”.