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Swimming club ‘heartbroken’ after bid to save leisure centre fails

Members of a swimming club have been left heartbroken after a challenge to keep Kimberley Leisure Centre open failed.

Dozens of Kimberley Swimming Club’s members heard councillors argue whether the decision to close the facility should be reconsidered.

However, Broxtowe Borough Council’s Labour leadership said that the costs asked by Kimberley School – estimated to be nearly £3m – meant it was unaffordable to keep it open.

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Swimming coach Ruth Stirland said: “I can’t begin to express the anguish that this has caused to the whole of the community.

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“We haven’t been consulted. We haven’t been consulted at all. We didn’t know anything about it.

“The contribution that we make to the community is saving the council hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are getting children off the streets, getting them fit and teaching them a life skill.”

Kimberley School has asked for £440,000 to cover the leisure centres’ losses over the next three years and unlimited repair costs, which are currently around £2.4m.

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The closure was originally announced in December after a closed-door meeting, but the call-in request meant the public could hear the debate for the first time.

Councillor Lydia Ball was one of five Conservative members who requested the decision to be reconsidered.

“The leisure centre is the heart of Kimberley – it makes it what it is. When it’s gone, there’s nothing left,” she said.

“To even consider not supporting it is a travesty.”

The call-in claimed there hadn’t been enough consultation and other alternatives hadn’t been properly explored.

However, Labour members said that there was no way to continue funding the facility.

Councillor Will Mee (Lab), a ward member for Kimberley, said: “It will be a massive blow to the area, including residents’ health and wellbeing.

“I understand how angry people are, but we have to look at the finances. Ten years of cuts for council’s budgets mean we just don’t have the money.

“£440,000 is a lot – the repairs could be millions. It’s old, outdated and should have been rebuilt more than 20 years ago.

“If the pool goes, the council will do best to offer alternatives.”

Council leader Councillor Milan Radulovic has written to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Development Michael Gove, asking for some of Kimberley’s ring-fenced Levelling Up fund to be allocated to the leisure centre.

However, he said he wasn’t hopeful.

“At this 11th hour and 59th minute, we’re still trying to provide a leisure facility in the north of the borough,” he told the meeting.

The committee ultimately rejected the call-in request, meaning the original decision to close the leisure centre will stand.

A cross-party group will be set up to look at new leisure facilities in the north.

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