Councillor warns Purley leisure centre may never reopen

Still waters: the 1970s-built Purley pool and leisure centre has been closed for six months

A ward councillor in Purley says that the council-owned swimming pool and leisure centre there, which has been closed since March because of coronavirus, is at serious risk of never being reopened.

Inside Croydon has reported previously how other sports and leisure facilities, such as the Croydon Arena athletics track and football ground in South Norwood, have remained closed while similar facilities in other boroughs reopened for business in July.

Croydon’s council-owned leisure venues are operated by GLL, what was Greenwich Leisure, under their non-ironic “Better” branding. Under their agreement with the council, under normal circumstances, GLL is responsible for the funding of the centres’ operations, paid for out of income from users. The borough’s better-used leisure centres are supposed to cross-subsidise the less well-used ones.

But now it seems that GLL wants additional funding from the cash-strapped council to make some of its centres “covid-safe” for reopening. And that is money which Croydon Council, with debts of £1.5billion and hundreds of staff about to be made redundant, just does not have.

Uncertain future: the Purley leisure centre has had threats of closure before

Of Croydon Council’s five leisure centres and swimming pools, Thornton Heath and New Addington reopened all their facilities on July 25. South Norwood and Waddon reopened their gyms and started offering fitness classes again in July, and both are expected to reopen their swimming pools this Saturday, September 12.

But GLL makes no mention on its website of any reopening plans for Purley’s pool or gym.

Over the weekend, Helen Redfern, a Conservative councillor for Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown, told residents in her ward, “I’ve spent the day with council officers, including [the] director responsible for our leisure centres.

“Purley Leisure Centre will not reopen in 2020 and it seems unlikely it will reopen next year either.”

Redfern described this as ”devastating news”.

Redfern has previously referred to an email she received from GLL which said, “We are currently working with Croydon Council on the finances for the Croydon Leisure Contract, to ensure that it remains sustainable.”

Warning: Helen Redfern

This is widely interpreted as GLL requiring additional money from the council.

Redfern has complained that residents in her part of the borough, where libraries in Purley and Sanderstead remain closed, are receiving a much-reduced service from their council, and has pointed to the Labour-run council managing to reopen its facilities in other, Labour-supporting parts of the borough.

But with the maintenance bills for the 1970s-built Purley pool continuing to mount, the possibility that the facility will be closed for good is not impossible. The council came cllose to shutting Purley leisure centre permanently in 2014, before performing a U-turn in the face of public complaints.

But now, Redfern says, “A concern that is being raised by many residents is that the leisure centre or its pool will never reopen.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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5 Responses to Councillor warns Purley leisure centre may never reopen

  1. Ernest Thomason says:

    What a total hypocrit this councillor is. It was her party that want to close the leisure centre.

    The voters had memories like elephants and never forget the privatisation cock-up that was done with parks, libraries and school transport.

    Because the existing administration is in debt because of the epidemic, which is out of their control, they feel that they can have a go. They didn’t like it when they were in power and the boot was on the other foot.

    • Actually, Ernie, you’re wrong on two important points.

      The last time the closure of Purley pool was put forward as a cost-cutting idea, it was under this present Labour-led council.

      And the council’s £1.5billion debt was built up long before anyone had ever heard of coronavirus.

  2. Moya Gordon says:

    Coming soon – a new tower block of flats to replace the leisure centre.

    • davidmogo says:

      … without a doubt this is on the cards, Moya.

      The same d£v£lop£rs will be eyeing up the Fairfield Halls site too.

      • Moya Gordon says:

        Yeah. That Monoply game has got a lot to answer for. Maybe they should alter the game so that Planning Permission can only be granted if you win the approval of locals. Hang on isn’t that how it’s supposed to work in the real world?

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