Councillors have denied any “conspiracy” over the closure of Deighton Sports Arena – but could give no assurances over its future.

The sports complex, next to the site of the former Deighton Centre, was closed in mid-December until the end of March due to spiralling energy costs.

Campaigners fighting to save the sports arena feared it was linked to plans to build a new school for children with special educational needs on a site next door.

The campaigners from Save Deighton Sports Centre say the loss of the facilities used by hundreds of young people would be a “devastating” blow to the local community, and demanded to know that the closure was only temporary.

Deighton Sports Arena and Batley Baths and Recreation Centre were both closed along with the swimming pool at Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite.

The cost-saving decision was taken by Kirklees Active Leisure, a charitable trust which runs the 12 sports and leisure centres in Kirklees. Though the trust receives substantial funding from Kirklees Council it is a separate organisation and the council has distanced itself from the decision taken in December.

At a full meeting of Kirklees Council on Wednesday, Deighton campaigners asked directly whether the closure was linked to plans to relocate the Joseph Norton Academy from Scissett to the site of the former Deighton Centre next to Deighton Sports Arena.

Louise Lewis and Basil Richards at the council meeting

Louise Lewis, a PE teacher who is one of the campaign leaders, asked: “Has a decision been made by the council about relocating the Joseph Norton School to Deighton?”

In response Clr Viv Kendrick, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, denied there was any link and was taken aback by the suggestion.

“The Joseph Norton issue is a long, on-going issue,” she said. “It’s a school for children with social, emotional and mental health needs, some of the most vulnerable young people in the borough.

“While it isn’t a single sex school, at the moment there are only boys there. If you are a girl with social, emotional and mental health needs you have to go outside the area.

“This is wrong for these young people, and it costs several millions of pounds a year to fund that, but that’s not the driver.

“The site at Joseph Norton School does not lend itself to expanding and building effectively and it’s at one end of Kirklees and the children that attend – or could attend – come from all over Kirklees so a central site is what is looked for.

The former Deighton Centre

“I am absolutely not aware that the establishment of a school at the site would in any way negatively impact on the sports centre that’s there already. It’s not a ‘one or the other.’

“It’s completely separate across the site and I, in my other role as children and young people’s Cabinet member, would actually want the sports centre to remain there and be active and effective.

“It isn’t any sort of conspiracy whatsoever. In fact until you mentioned it earlier I was completely surprised that anybody had thought about that.”

Ms Lewis pressed again, saying her original question was not answered.

Clr Kendrick replied: “The decision is that we do need a school that encompasses all the children of Kirklees who need that facility.

“The site at Deighton has been identified as a potential site but at the moment nothing around a build or a planning application has gone in. That will be in due course if that’s the way we go.”

Basil Richards, who runs the Deighton Into Sport Project which has 11 junior football teams, said the community was “desperately” hanging onto the promise that the closure was only temporary and asked for an assurance that the centre would re-open.

Clr Paul Davies (centre) with Clr Viv Kendrick (front left) and council leader Clr Shabir Pandor (front, right)

Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, said he could give no firm commitment.

He added: “The council have never cut off KAL and we have provided, in addition to the just over £2 million core grant, £11 million extra funds over the last four years.

“KAL at this point of the financial year do have to look at their sustainability within their financial envelope.

“The council itself is also in that position. The council has a very significant deficit due to energy costs and inflation and, for the next financial year, an even more significant deficit that we are working on at the moment.

“There will be discussions around the financial support for KAL going forward but I am not able to give any reassurances about what additional funds we can provide because we have to look at our whole budget in line with a whole range of services.”

Eugene Andrew asked if the council could commit to bring Deighton Sports Arena, if not other leisure centres, back under council control.

Clr Davies replied: “At this stage we are not looking at that in any detail. That’s not to say it couldn’t be looked at in the future.

“At this point KAL has got to look at making their model sustainable. However, I would be silly to say that’s not an option that could be looked at in the future.

“There may never be a need to do that if the KAL model continues to operate and provide the services we need. There’s a lot of factors but I can’t give that commitment at this stage.”