Rescue package agreed to save leisure centres from permanent closure

Hutton Moor Leisure Centre.

Hutton Moor Leisure Centre. - Credit: Archant

A rescue package for North Somerset’s leisure centres which will prevent them from permanent closure has been agreed.

North Somerset Council’s executive committee agreed to help its six leisure centres to ensure they are fit to reopen effectively when safe to do so.

The authority will defer capital repayments of £267,000 from the leisure contractors due in 2020 and reapportion across the remaining contract term between 2021 and 2027. It will also waive £164,000 in management fees owed to it between April and September to support the reopening of the centres.

An additional £500,000 is also being offered by the council to help the three providers.

The council owns six sites across North Somerset including Hutton Moor in Weston and Churchill leisure centres but three different providers, Places Leisure, Legacy Leisure and Greenwich Leisure Ltd, operate them.

The level of support will be agreed with the operators and be based on actual losses during the closure period. If Government support becomes available, the support from the council would be repaid.

Further support will be considered in a September review.

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Winterstoke ward councillor Ciaran Cronnelly said losing Hutton Moor, which falls in his ward, would be ‘unthinkable’.

He said: “My first question as a councillor was about the previous administration’s lack of progress building a second pool at Hutton Moor. Now, 12 months on, Hutton Moor needs saving from potentially closing.

“Hutton Moor provided the council with significant revenue and provided our communities with excellent facilities – sports halls, a swimming pool, 3G pitches, and an excellent gym. It is well used by the community and is a popular place for events.

“It would be absolutely unthinkable if all of that was lost.

“No-one could have anticipated coronavirus and the impact this would have on our communities and our businesses.

“Our leisure services are suffering due to the lockdown restrictions and will continue to struggle for some time as restrictions are gradually lifted.

“Going forward, Hutton Moor has an important role to play in the health and wellbeing of our community. Without them it will be our communities that’ll suffer.”

Cllr Ash Cartman, executive member with responsibility for finance, said without financial support the leisure management companies managing the largest sites may not be able or willing to reopen facilities.

He saidL “Without any income, the leisure centres are still incurring huge monthly running costs for these complex buildings. We are very concerned that some of them may not be able to open again without our support.

“The result would be a loss of leisure provision at a time when maintaining a good level of physical and mental health is so important for our residents.

“The council is committed to improving the health of the local population and reducing health inequalities.”