Time for a last swim, but the fight goes on

Stocksbridge Leisure centre faces closure. Protesters gather outside
Stocksbridge Leisure centre faces closure. Protesters gather outside

Stocksbridge Leisure Centre closes tomorrow (Friday) after 44 years.

Customers are expected to queue for a last swim before the centre is mothballed from 5pm - and campaigners step up efforts to produce a viable business plan with a view to the premises reopening under community control.

Campaign group S4LC secured a judicial review on Tuesday of the council’s handling of the run-up to closure, but they failed to get an injunction that would have kept the centre in business pending a hoped-for long-term deal.

They had maintained that keeping it open would reduce the risk of customers not coming back and the chances of costly vandalism.

The council has set aside £125,000 for mothballing, which it says will allow more time and a clean slate for a potential solution to be reached. The casualties, though, will be about 30 full and part-time staff, although some have been redeployed.

The judicial review is expected to scrutinise the consultation process, the impact of closure on disabled people and the information that the council provided protesters.

S4LC saying they were given insufficient detail to firm up its proposals, which is denied by the council. But if the council is found at fault, the result is likely to be going through it again, not immediate reopening

One of S4LC’s first jobs will be a structural survey. It has until the end of August to finalise a business plan, and talks will be held with the council, raising the hope that a way forward can be agreed without a return to court.

The council says Stocksbridge is closing because it has the highest subsidy per customer, and lowest attendances of all the sports centres operated through Sheffield International Venues, which it subsidises. It wants to save £400,000 a year.

S4LC can turn to Stocksbridge Town Council, which could levy a local precept, as part of a financial package. It also points out that 38% of customers were from the Barnsley area, so would Barnsley Council like to contribute? Or Penistone Town Council? Contact has been made with community-run Chapeltown and King Edward pools

If some funds could be secured, it would pressure on Sheffield City Council to relax its purse strings. Whatever, S4LC is not giving up.

The council believes its approach was justified in court, saying there was no criticism of the way it had gone about consulting with local people and preparing for closure.

The reality, though, is that it’s time for the last swim, at least for the time being.