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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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