Croydon Council has received nearly £1million of government covid cash from a fund to ensure local sports and leisure facilities can reopen safely after the coronavirus lockdown – but the authority has done nothing to open the doors of Purley Leisure Centre, which have been firmly locked shut since March 2020.
The Save Purley Pool Campaign, backed by local schools, business and sports clubs, staged a protest outside the council-owned facility yesterday.
Despite other leisure centres across the borough reopening as lockdown restrictions are eased, Purley Leisure Centre, which has a 25-metre public pool and a gym that was refurbished only months before the first national lockdown, remains shut and with no reopening date announced.
“There is growing frustration at the lack of interest and engagement from Croydon Council despite their assurances they would work with the community regarding Purley Leisure Centre,” said campaigner Richard Willmer.
“Poor finances are not an excuse to keep it shut,” said Rachel Thompson, from Save Purley Pool said.
“Our Freedom Of Information request revealed that the council has received £924,000 in funding from the National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund which specifically aims ‘to assist the reopening and recovery of leisure services’.
“Why is none of this money coming Purley Leisure Centre’s way?”
Save Purley Pool say that they have been “inundated with messages” from organisations and residents about the adverse effects the closure of the centre is having on their lives and health. A petition calling on the council to reopen the centre has more than 2,500 signatures.
Primary-aged children are supposed to be taught how to swim under the National Curriculum and to be able to swim at least 25 metres before they start at their secondary schools. But the schools which would normally use Purley Pool have not been able to carry out any swimming lessons for 14 months now, and may not be able to offer any swimming lessons before the end of this school year.
St Aidan’s Primary in Coulsdon, whose Year 6 pupils actively campaigned to save Purley Leisure Centre, have highlighted the difficulty of using the next nearest pool to their school. Waddon Leisure Centre is a two-hour round trip via the congested Purley Way.
Teacher Collette Luke said, “Travelling with classes of primary school-aged children to Waddon Leisure Centre carries so many safeguarding issues. The 289 bus is a single deck vehicle so pupils would have to stand for most of the journey to Purley Way.
“Crossing the road at the busy and congested Fiveways Junction with a whole class is just too dangerous for us to consider.”
Opportunities to exercise for people with disabilities and those with mobility problems are also greatly affected if Purley Pool fails to reopen.
Enterprise Swimming Club, which has provided support for decades at Purley for those with a wide range of disabilities. One club official said, “We have already established that no other Croydon public pool has a suitable vacancy that we could use. Our primary concern is to be able to continue our important work of providing structured swimming sessions for disabled people.”
The campaigners maintain that Purley is the most viable place in the south of the borough for a leisure centre because of its position and accessibility by public transport.
Figures by Sport England show that sport and physical activity contributes £16billion to the national economy.
Given how well-used Purley Leisure Centre has been, its closure is also of huge concern to local business. Simon Cripps, the chief executive of Purley BID, said, “Purley Leisure Centre is a fantastic asset, it increases footfall to local business and its beneficial impact on the local economy is considerable.
“Let’s get it reopened.”
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