Campaigners win first step to keep Bulwell facility open

Julie Hopcroft leads petitioners to Bulwell Riverside to campaign for the Mellish Sports Centre not to close.
Julie Hopcroft leads petitioners to Bulwell Riverside to campaign for the Mellish Sports Centre not to close.

Campaigners have successfully won a reprieve to keep a Bulwell leisure facility open.

News that the Henry Mellish Sports Centre could close at the end of August through lack of funding sparked a community-led fight back.

A campaign group was quickly formed, petition launched and appeal for support and now Nottingham City Council has backed off giving the centre a stay of execution.

“We are delighted that the council have given us until the end of April to come up with a solution,” said Julie Hopcroft, who is one of the campaign leaders. “After hearing of the plans to close the centre we pulled out all the stops to prevent it from happening.

“We are determined to keep the facility and are well mobilised and passionate to find a way forward.”

The City Council own the facility but it is run on their behalf by Central Active Gym.

Coun David Mellen, portfolio holder for Children’s Services confirmed the decision: “I am pleased to say we have taken swift action on this and can confirm we have made provision for the centre to stay open until at least the end of April 2014.

“We will work together with Central College Nottingham and with users and community groups to find a long term future for the centre after that date.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has worked so hard behind the scenes at the council and the college to make this happen. This is great news for users of the facilities.”

Members of the campaign group have now been invited to join the management board of the centre.

“This means we will have a real say on how it will be run,” added Julie. “Even though it is used by all age groups within the community we need to look at marketing it better and finding a wider use for the facility.”

The group held a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the way forward.

“We remain focused on finding a way to utilise the centre more, increase opening hours and accommodate greater access for the wider community,” added Julie. “We are discussing a partnership and creating a sustainable plan for the future.”

The centre has many activities running there from keep fit to netball, trampolining to rollerskating and many more.

One centre user said the centre helped her turn her life around.

“It is a great meeting place for families and individuals,” said Julie Pinot De Moira. “It has a wonderful feel to the place where many similar centres can seem off-putting.

“After suffering health problems I was advised to take up exercise and this place helped turn my life around and I haven’t looked back.”

Several local councillors including Alan Clark and Eunice Campbell joined the fight together with Nottingham North MP Graham Allen, who reopened the centre in 2008.

“I was delighted to help the fight,” said Graham. “Closing this facility is not acceptable and I’m pleased that we have been able to get a reprieve.

“We have achieved stage one but now we have to get to stage two and the long-term plan which means finding a way to raise funding, attracting business partners or setting up a social enterprise scheme.”