Campaigners fighting to save Deighton Sports Arena say Kirklees Council is letting down the local community and accuse local councillors of being “out of touch.”

Deighton Sports Arena hosts sports coaching and other leisure activities for hundreds of children and young people in the local area.

The centre was one of three Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) facilities subject to a “temporary” closure in December, a move which rocked the community and led to warnings that young people with time on their hands could be enticed into crime and anti-social behaviour.

The closures of the swimming pool at Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite, Batley Baths & Recreation Centre and Deighton Sports Arena were said to be “temporary” until the end of March.

However, while the Slaithwaite pool re-opened in April it was announced last week that Batley will stay shut permanently and Deighton will re-open for just 21 hours a week for six months, though no dates for the re-opening have yet been given.

The closures remain despite a £6 million bail-out given to KAL by Kirklees Council in April.

In a hard-hitting statement, Louise Lewis, on behalf of Save Deighton Sports Centre Campaign Group, said it was “appalling” that the arena hadn’t yet been re-opened.

She said after the end of the six months Kirklees Active Leisure, which runs sports facilities on behalf of Kirklees Council, would “wash their hands of Deighton just as they have done with Batley.”

Campaigners Louise Lewis and Basil Richards who both spoke at a full meeting of Kirklees Council

She added: “In my opinion, the local councillors should be doing so much more to support the community and ensure the sports centre is reopened and remains open.

“Labour spoke as part of their campaign in the run up to local elections about the high knife crime in the area. Unfortunately, the answer to this in the councillors’ speeches was around increasing more community police on the ground, which shows just how out of touch they are.

“What the area needs is the sports centre opening fully and back under the council’s control. They need an increase in facilities for our young people in the Ashbrow area in order to provide them with more opportunities and to help divert them from senseless violence.”

Ms Lewis said the campaign group had instructed law firm Leigh Day which wrote to KAL with a series of questions. It took a long time to respond and referred some questions to the council.

“Appallingly, the council has completely failed to respond,” said Ms Lewis.

She added: “Now the elections are over, with Labour holding the majority, we want to see less photo opportunities and pretending everything is working well from our councillors.

“We need to see a lot more work being done by councillors to ensure Deighton Sports Arena, as well as Batley Baths, is opened fully and permanently just as they have done for Colne Valley.

“The council should take back full control of all the leisure centres in Kirklees and show the community why a vote for Labour is worthwhile.

“The council say after 13 years of Conservative government families in Kirklees are worse off. We say Labour in Kirklees at present is letting its community down in both Deighton and Batley.”

In reply, Clr Amanda Pinnock (Lab, Ashbrow) said: “I know how important Deighton Sports Arena is to an area like ours and I am deeply concerned about the risk of losing such a valuable resource especially at a time when our young people need positive spaces they can enjoy.

“The council is working very closely with KAL to provide both financial help and support to manage all the centres in Kirklees as well as Deighton Sports Arena. 

“In spite of this KAL still has a large gap in their budget which means at this time Deighton Sports Arena will re-open for a limited period of six months unless a long-term solution can be found.

“We need the Government to step in NOW and provide funding to bail out the centre but this is not going to happen. Instead councillors are working towards either raising more funds, bringing the arena back into council control or community ownership.

“It is crucial that when the centre does re-open it is well used by all to show there is a real need and that it serves a vital purpose in our community.”

Campaigners at a protest outside Deighton Sports Arena

A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “The financial environment for leisure operators across the country continues to be extremely tough due to uncontrollable financial pressures. That is why the council agreed a £6 million support package for local leisure centres earlier this year.

“The funding has given KAL limited options to reverse some of the closures from last December, with Deighton Sports Arena to reopen on a partial basis for six months as long term options are assessed. KAL are currently finalising its plans and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks confirming the re-opening date.

“The council is aware of detailed questions submitted on behalf of the campaign group. A full response will be supplied shortly through the council’s Freedom of Information process.”