AN ARMY of legal experts, former councillors and community activists has come together to give new hope for a leisure centre facing the axe.
Working group 4SLC - for Stocksbridge Leisure Centre - is working against the clock to draw up plans for the venue to become community-run.
The announcement that Sheffield Council plans to shut the centre to save £400,000 a year in public subsidy was made in January, giving campaigners just a matter of months to come up with alternatives before the proposed closure in April.
Protests and petitions have sought to put pressure on council bosses, but the 4SLC group is now focusing on how it can ensure the future of the centre for years to come.
Around 50 people - from accountants and business owners to childminders all opposed to the closure - have offered their expertise to build a proposal to put forward to the council.
Paperwork allowing 4SLC to become a charitable trust with a fundraising arm is being finalised, but campaigners are appealing for more time to get the business plan right.
Emma Gregory, chairwoman of 4SLC, said: “This is driven by the people for the people. The strength of feeling at this planned closure has been felt in Sheffield Town Hall and I don’t think the council were expecting the response they got - 1,300 signatures in 10 days and 800 people marching in the snow.
“We are committed to this and doing things properly. We could just ask the council for more money to keep us going another year or so, but we don’t want to be in this position again.
“We want to make sure it is there for years to come and ensure the land is used for the purpose of recreation for the people of Stocksbridge, just as it should be.”
Facilities elsewhere in Sheffield such as Chapeltown Baths and King Edward’s Swimming Pool, both run by the community, are being looked to as models. The group believes it needs more time as the size of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre, currently run by Sheffield International Venues, means it poses a bigger challenge.
Ms Gregory said: “We’re out of town, we’re always the last at the end of the line for anything. As a community we have had enough and said, ‘Right, this is ours and you’re not taking anything else’.”