The future of leisure centres in Kirklees will become clearer on December 4.
That’s the date when Kirklees Council will publish its proposals for which leisure centres will have to close.
The council has already said that the only leisure centres safe from closure are Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Spen Valley Leisure Centre in Cleckheaton. Three proposed for closure were Colne Valley Leisure Centre at Slaithwaite, Dewsbury Sports Centre and Batley Sports & Tennis Centre at Howden Clough.
A period of public consultation has ended and the 18,000 responses are currently being evaluated.
Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), which runs leisure and sports facilities on behalf of the council, is understood to be pulling out of the John Smith’s Stadium.
KAL’s head office will move out of the stadium and it’s also believed the Stadium Health & Fitness Club is likely to close before Christmas.
Huddersfield Town is understood to be looking at the feasibility of taking it over to ensure it remains open to the public.
Deighton Sports Arena, meanwhile, has been given a stay of execution. A community asset transfer is being looked at so KAL will allow the site to be operated until at least March next year.
The future of the district’s leisure centres was the subject of debate at a meeting of the council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday.
Former councillor Lesley Warner, who is fighting to save Colne Valley Leisure Centre, spoke at the meeting and urged councillors to consider the impact on people’s health and mental wellbeing.
“It’s about time leisure centres were renamed health and wellbeing leisure centres,” she said. “There are endless conversations at all our leisure centres, including Colne Valley, about how people are going to cope with their mental health once (centres) close.
“The aqua-fit classes, which are always full at Colne Valley, help keep arthritis and fibromyalgia at bay. When Colne Valley pool closed for two months recently the local doctor said people’s conditions deteriorated.
“Many friendships have been formed and we all know why – it’s a depressing time we are living through. You are taking a lifeline away for so many people.”
Ms Warner said closing leisure centres would only thrust added pressure on the NHS. She said 61% of the population of Kirklees was obese and the cost of inactivity runs into billions of pounds.
“We all know that regular fitness and exercise boosts confidence, increases motivation, reduces tension, helps to calm the mind and reduces loneliness.”
Ms Warner said people who could afford would be prepared to pay more to use leisure centres but the question wasn’t even asked in the consultation.
“Most people have indicated as long as the Passport to Leisure exists for those less well off they would be prepared to pay more,” she said.
“A price for life, however laudable, does not make any business sense. Charging an extra £5 or £10 monthly would allow all centres to stay open, and yet that question wasn’t even asked in the consultation.
“This is short term madness. If these centres close we all know they will not re-open. Can we ask councillors to think outside the box?
“The closures will, in the long term, save the council from any financial shortages, but will instead push much larger financial constraints into other areas such as primary, community and mental health care which is already facing unsustainable pressures.”
Clr Jackie Ramsay, Cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “We understand the benefits of exercise to mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of people. These are being considered by officers in partnership with KAL and they are looking at what the offer can be and that will come to Cabinet on December 12.
“The papers for the meeting will be published on December 4 so there’s less than two weeks to go. I understand we have received 18,000 responses to the consultation.
“I am told KAL has been re-modelling its finances and offer, taking into account many of the suggestions that have been made and will do what we can to see what facilities may be kept open.
“But it’s challenging financial times so it may not be possible to sustain the provision as it was previously. We know that leisure centres are important to health and wellbeing but they are not the way the majority of people in Kirklees stay active or could stay active.
“Kirklees has lots of other sporting organisations, community activity classes, commercial gyms and a stunning landscape in which you can walk and cycle.
“What the consultation has highlighted to us is the importance of leisure centres to many people and how they facilitate access to social links which then have a bearing on mental wellbeing. That’s why we’ve asked KAL to look at their costs and income.”
The Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee will have chance to offer feedback on the council’s proposals on December 5 before they go to Cabinet for approval a week later.