Thursday 29 February 2024
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Nottingham

Last ditch attempt to save Nottingham leisure centre

A last-ditch challenge to the closure of Kimberley Leisure Centre is being made – but is likely to be rejected by Broxtowe Borough Council next week.

The Labour-run authority says the centre and pool is likely to close at the end of March 2024 after a joint funding agreement could could not be reached.

The opposition Conservative group has now attempted to ‘call in’ the decision in the hopes of overturning it, citing the lack of public consultation and secrecy.

The council held the final debate on the centre’s future behind closed doors on December 5.

The facility is jointly run by the council, the Kimberley School and Liberty Leisure Ltd.

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While the council has not published reports on the closure plan, the authority says it is losing £300,000 per year and it needs a £2.4m basic refurbishment, which the school says makes it ‘economically unviable’.

An Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Thursday, December 21 will hear a challenge from five Conservative councillors to the recent decision.

Like the original meeting, members of the public will be excluded from the discussion due to sensitive commercial details in reports.

Councillor Philip Owen (Con), said the call-in was a last-ditch method to prevent the leisure centre’s closure.

“There has been no public consultation at all. This announcement came out of the blue. The council should have tried to establish the public reaction,” he said.

“The equality impact assessment was only given to members at the meeting, and members weren’t given time to study it before the vote.

“It’s disappointing that this will be behind closed doors. The public should be able to listen to the decision. There’s nothing that particularly financially sensitive. as the council have already put out most of the figures.

“I’m not hopeful at all that the decision will be overturned. It’s very much a last-ditch effort.

“As a group, we wanted to make every effort to save it. We can hold our heads high knowing we did everything possible.”

The mechanism of ‘calling in’ a decision is supposed to be used in exceptional circumstances when councillors are severely concerned about the ruling cabinet’s actions.

But the meeting’s agenda recommends that the committee reject the call-in motion, and no longer fund the school’s operation of the leisure centre.

It says that the council was asked to cover the leisure centre’s deficits for the next three years, as well as “uncapped contributions towards repair costs”.

The council plans to look for a replacement leisure site in the north of the borough, and to discuss whether a gym could be maintained at the Kimberley site.

Council Leader Milan Radulovic (Lab) said in a statement: “This is understandably a very distressing time for the employees at Kimberley Gym and Swim and they are being fully supported, including looking at redeployment opportunities within the Council and its other leisure facilities should redundancies have to be made.

“We also understand that this will be disappointing news to our customers, members, residents and the community who use the fitness and swimming facilities operated at the site by Liberty Leisure Ltd.

“Liberty Leisure Ltd will continue to operate gym and fitness classes, swimming, including Swim School and Exercise Referral until March 31 2024.”

Kimberley Swimming Club, which has used the venue for 46 years, fears it will be forced to close unless it’s able to find a new home.

The Kimberley School said the facility is “well beyond its intended lifespan”, and was too costly to continue running.

“The costs of a basic refurbishment are £2.4 million and these are just the priority items. This is economically unviable and a level of capital investment that is not realistic for the school or East Midlands Education Trust,” it said.

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