Young people have added their voices to calls to save Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite.
The Teen Gym, which runs after school between 4pm and 5pm, is fully booked every night.
The gym is limited to 12 young people and must be booked every day. There’s a daily scramble by parents to secure a place for their teenagers.
The young people – and their parents – say it’s great for physical and mental health and allows the teens to burn off both calories and stress.
Colne Valley Leisure Centre, which also has a swimming pool popular with young people, is at risk of closure because of a cash crisis engulfing Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), the charitable trust which runs sports and leisure centres on behalf of Kirklees Council.
The council must make £47 million in cuts ahead of the start of the next financial year in April 2024 and can no longer afford to subsidise KAL.
The council this year gave KAL a £6 million bail-out but next year funding drops to £2.55 million.
KAL and the council have launched public consultation proposing the permanent closure of Colne Valley Leisure Centre, Dewsbury Sports Centre – already shut ‘temporarily’ due to concerns over potentially unsafe concrete – and Batley Sports & Tennis Centre in Howden Clough.
However, all centres are potentially at risk with only Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Spen Valley Leisure Centre in Cleckheaton safe.
Parents say Colne Valley Leisure Centre is a lifeline for young people, some of whom have special educational needs.
“The kids love it,” said one mum. “There’s the Teen Gym and swimming and it’s just amazing. It’s so important for mental and physical health and young people with special educational needs, in particular, thrive on that kind of exercise.
“The kids can meet up and go there after school with their mates. If they had to go to Huddersfield Leisure Centre it would mean another bus, they might get there too late, then they are hanging about in the bus station or town centre after dark.
“Huddersfield has a really high proportion of gangs in comparison with other areas and young people can easily get drawn into that.
“Colne Valley Leisure Centre is a lifeline for both young people and their parents.”
Another parent said: “Young people are our future and it is vital they are supported. By creating a safe space for our children now they can go on to sustain social development as well as a sense of belonging not to mention the health and well-being benefits that exercise provides for confidence and self-belief.”
And here’s what some of the young people themselves had to say.
Jenson said: “It’s great to keep fit every day and have my mates with me. It’s something we can do after school walking there and back together.”
Zak said: “We have created our own programme and it’s great having your mates to work alongside. It’s a stress break after school!”
George said without the centre he would be “unfit, have nothing to do and not be able to see his friends.”
His mum added: “The gym and pool has been a godsend in the bad weather during half-term.
“Going to the gym keeps George off his dreaded Xbox and they can walk there without having to rely on us or public transport. It keeps George busy in a safe environment.”
Jack said: “It’s great for keeping fit with my friends and it’s within walking distance after school and good in winter when it’s too cold to play football outside.”
Tyler added: “I don’t want it to close. I’ve only just joined!”
Colne Valley Labour councillor Beverley Addy wants to find a way to keep the leisure centre open and said local councils needed “fair funding” from the Government “so we can protect these important services.”
She added: “It’s great to see the youth speaking out to protect the centre they use and signing up to help keep it open.
“While the visible side of the campaign to keep the pool, gym and sports hall open has been mainly adults we mustn’t forget this is a place where youngsters learn to swim, and not just through their school sessions.
“It is where they socialise, spend their holiday time and keep fit. High school students have been making use of the after-school teen gym sessions specifically set up for them.
“These youngsters are very much part of the future of this facility and it’s wonderful they are speaking out in an effort to preserve it for themselves and generations to come.
“This facility reaches every part of our valley community and needs to be preserved to provide a vital hub for everyone’s health and wellbeing.”
Save Our Colne Valley Pool and Leisure Centre has launched its own survey HERE.
The Kirklees Council consultation can be found HERE.