A councillor made an impassioned plea to the community to help save Colne Valley Leisure Centre from closure.
Clr Bev Addy (Lab, Colne Valley) told a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Cabinet what a special place the Slaithwaite leisure centre was.
Clr Addy said the passionate Colne Valley community could “move mountains” and she urged anyone with the Colne Valley in their hearts to come forward and help keep the doors open.
Colne Valley Leisure Centre survived a temporary closure at the beginning of this year when the swimming pool had to be shut to save money.
It’s back open but the whole centre is now at risk of permanent closure amid a cash crisis engulfing Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) which runs leisure centres on behalf of Kirklees Council.
The council gave KAL a £6 million bail-out this year but that will fall to a maximum of £2.55 million next year. The funding shortfall has meant the council is now proposing the closure of Colne Valley Leisure Centre, Dewsbury Sports Centre – currently closed after suspected defective concrete was found – and Batley Sports & Tennis Centre at Howden Clough.
The council’s Cabinet gave the go ahead for public consultation on the closures, which will go live on the council website on Friday September 29.
At the meeting Clr Addy gave an emotional speech, describing Colne Valley Leisure Centre as being “at the heart of our community for many people.”
She added: “It’s more than just a place to get fit, lose weight, build muscles, it’s about well-being, social care, the PALS scheme.
“I have seen myself. I had debilitating physical problems and went along and that supported environment is the kind of thing you get from this community resource.
“I’ve watched the people around me flourish who have had heart attacks and strokes. It wasn’t the exercises, primarily, that sorted them out, it was coming together, being supported.
“It was not buying an expensive membership at a gym and a personal trainer and pumping iron, it was this special place.
“This might be the sort of place that will always need extra support and I want to know when the Government is going to sit up and realise that rural facilities like this are important to the community in more ways than getting fit.
“When are they going to put their hands in their pocket and support them? People are still nervous coming out of Covid and with the cost-of-living crisis and the fuel prices – swimming. There are so many noted benefits from being in water, supporting your body when you’re not able to do it in other ways to exercise.
“This is a special facility in our community and our community can move mountains when it gets going – and I’m very passionate about ours – but sometimes mountains need money, so that’s what we need.
“I want everybody to take part in this consultation. It’s going to help us highlight ways forward and will bring people out of the woodwork.
“I am asking anybody associated with the Colne Valley – who has the Colne Valley in their heart – if you can help support us – maybe a community asset transfer is the answer.
“Come forward and get in touch now so we can keep this facility for the future, if it really can’t be kept under the auspices of the council and KAL.”
Kirklees Council is already talking to the local community in Deighton about an asset transfer for the threatened Deighton Sports Arena.
Under the council’s proposals Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Spen Valley Leisure Centre in Cleckheaton are safe and another six ‘marginal sites’ could also survive the axe.
The ‘marginal sites’ include Holmfirth Pool & Fitness Suite and Bradley Park Golf Course. Scissett Baths and Fitness Centre could also be kept open if funding is granted by Sport England.
Another marginal site is the Stadium Health & Fitness Club at the John Smith’s Stadium which could also be kept open in the short term to allow the council time to resolve “complex leasing arrangements” and investigate the site’s attraction to commercial operators.
All of the ‘marginal’ sites could still close should their financial or operational circumstances change, however.
Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for finance and regeneration, said: “Where many councils have closed pools and sports centres gradually over many years, we have remained committed to protecting leisure services as much as possible. This has also included major investment in new centres for both North and South Kirklees in recent years.
“However, the economic situation facing the UK is having a significant impact on everyone including local councils.
“This has left us having to make very difficult decisions on the ongoing provision of other services, such as sport and leisure.
“We are consulting on the proposals so that we can understand the impact they will have on local people.”