Fresh fears have emerged that Edgewood Leisure Centre in the west of Hucknall faces another fight to avoid closure.
It follows the bombshell announcement at an Ashfield District Council Cabinet meeting this week that it is considering pulling out of its management responsibilities at the centre.
Instead, it is to hold talks to transfer the running of the centre to the adjoining Edgewood Primary and Nursery School.
However, the school insists it is in no position to take on the operation of leisure facilities, including a swimming pool, and that would mean the centre shutting down for good.
The storm comes only two years after Edgewood’s future was seemingly secured in the wake of a campaign by residents and centre users.
Labour and Conservative councillors in Hucknall have reacted with fury at the latest move by the council’s ruling Independent group.
Coun Lauren Mitchell, leader of the Labour group, said: “It is unfair of the council’s Cabinet to try and pass the blame on to Edgewood School.
“It knows full well that, under the current financial strains, no school would be in a position to take on a contract like this.
“Unless the council commits to continuing with its contract, the leisure centre will be gone, and residents deserve better than that.”
Labour colleague, Coun Keir Morrison, said: “The Independents do not understand how much people care about this centre.
“They need to know how much we value our community facilities.
“Edgewood is the only council-run leisure facility for that part of Hucknall, and closing it would impact on public health.”
Their views were echoed by Coun Chris Baron, a former Labnour member who now represents the Conservatives on the Hucknall West ward.
Coun Baron told this week’s Cabinet meeting: “If this goes ahead, Edgewood Leisure Centre will close.
“I went in on a Sunday afternoon at half-past seven, and it was absolutely heaving. That says to me that the contractor, Everyone Active, is doing the best job it can possibly do.
“There is little public swimming time even now in the big pool. Why go through this process when all you’re going to do is upset people?
“We would fight you on this, and I think the council has got it wrong.
“if you can save some leisure centres and close others, I think there is something drastically wrong. Please think about it.”
The swimming pool at Edgewood offers a range of wet activities that include an award-winning swim school for adults and children.
It caters for those who want to swim for fitness and those who just want to have some casual fun. There are ‘Swim 4 Everyone’ sessions, fun sessions for under-threes and programmes for women only too.
The centre‘s sports hall hosts martial arts, including judo, taekwondo and karate, and also badminton and table tennis matches, while its multi-purpose club room is available for private hire for events such as children’s birthday parties.
The perception among the Hucknall public is that Edgewood is popular and well-used. But this week’s report to the Cabinet insists its performance is “generally poor”, which reflects the small size and outdated age of the centre.
In 12 key performance categories, identified by an independent assessment, Edgewood scored outside the benchmark range in ten of them.
The council is undertaking a wide-ranging review of all its leisure facilities, and the views of the public in a consultation exercise revealed that 92.5 per cent of customers believed resources should now be focused on larger leisure centres at Hucknall (Linby Road), Sutton and Kirkby.
Edgewood has operated since 1975 under a joint-use agreement between Ashfield Council and the owners of the building, Nottinghamshire County Council.
Ashfield operates the leisure facilities, through the private management company, Everyone Active, while the county council owns the land and buildings and the school uses the leisure facilities at agreed times.
However, Ashfield’s contract with Everyone Active runs out in March, 2021, and the council feels now could be an ideal time to “transfer Edgewood’s swimming and activities programmes to Hucknall Leisure Centre” and to shift the management of the centre to the school.
Cold water was poured on the latter idea by the school’s head teacher Ed Seeley. In a statement released to the Dispatch, Mr Seeley stressed: “The core purpose of our school is to provide the best education possible for our children, not to run leisure facilities.
“The removal of Ashfield District Council funding for Edgewood Leisure Centre would lead to it closing.
“In 2016, when this matter was last under consideration, the school made it clear that the costs of running a pool were such that it would not be financially viable.
“The school does not have trained staff to run leisure facilities or to maintain the specialist equipment required.
“The school would prefer that the leisure centre and pool remain open in their current form.
“All our children benefit from swimming each week as part of their education and to learn how to stay safe in water.
“More than anything, if the council takes this course of action, we hope it will be open and transparent with the community about the impact of such a decision.”
THE leader of Ashfield District Council reacted to the worries about Edgewood Leisure Centre’s future by insisting that closure was NOT on the agenda.
Coun Jason Zadrozny told this week’s Cabinet meeting: “I appreciate your fears, but closing Edgewood is not our intention.
“We wanted to review all leisure contracts, and that means having a conversation with each of the leisure centres in a formal, open and transparent Cabinet report.
“The only thing we seek to do with Edgewood is to have a conversation about it.
“We’ve got no ambition to close it. In fact, we couldn’t close it even if we wanted to because it belongs to the school and the building belongs to the county council. All we could do is to hand it back and say we are not being part of it. But that’s not the trajectory we want to follow.
“We want to explore all options because given that the government takes our revenue support grant off us completely next year, we have to look at everything.
“If this dialogue goes nowhere, then we will be open and transparent about what we will do with the leisure management contract in the future.”
Coun Zadrozny also had a dig at the Labour group, reminding the meeting that when it was in office, it closed Huthwaite Leisure Centre long before the Independents took charge.