Blow for Sheffield leisure centre campaign

A demonstration outside Stocksbridge Leisure Centre against proposals to close it.
A demonstration outside Stocksbridge Leisure Centre against proposals to close it.
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CAMPAIGNERS hoping to keep Stocksbridge Leisure Centre open have been dealt a triple blow - but pledged to keep fighting.

Sheffield Council, which is planning to close the centre to save £397,000 in subsidies a year, has given the town council until the end of April to look at alternative options.

But The Star can reveal an independent report commissioned by Stocksbridge Town Council has found no realistic way of cutting the centre’s losses.

There is also a lack of funding for the most viable alternative in the report - a new 25-metre pool costing £3 million.

And a proposed new ‘North Sheffield Hub’ sports centre, part of the £10m Sheffield Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, is unlikely to be built in Stocksbridge because too few people live nearby.

Campaign group 4SLC was meeting last night to discuss remaining options.

Chairwoman Fay Howard said: “The report is pretty bleak but it’s not a battle lost. People have bombarded us with offers of donations, so we are proposing a giving scheme. Public money was raised to build the centre and the same could keep it open.

“Five thousand pounds a week would be enough, and we then have a long-term aim of getting capital to modernise the centre.”

Sheffield International Venues, which runs Stocksbridge Leisure Centre on behalf of Sheffield Council, says the centre costs £897,000 a year to run - and makes just £500,000.

Costs are £517,000 for payroll, £177,000 for utility bills, £87,000 for operating costs, £75,000 for maintenance, £23,000 for insurance and £12,000 business rates. The only way to cut running costs would be to close sections of the building or reduce opening hours - hitting income.

The report concludes the only viable solution is a ‘small community 25metre pool’ on a new site.

But that would cost £3m - and the estimated value of selling the site, excluding playing fields, would be only £500,000.

A £10 rise in households’ town council precept on top of council tax bills would raise only a few hundred thousand pounds.

Sheffield Council said the report concludes there are ‘no obvious sources’ of capital grant to build a new pool, which would mean having to borrow to cover the cost. And funding from Sport England is available only for larger ‘district’ leisure centres.

Stocksbridge’s subsidy for the centre’s 142,000 annual users works out at £2.80 per visit - against £1.10 at Concord and just 53p at Hillsborough.

Ponds Forge needs a £1.5m subsidy but has more 700,000 annual visits - a subsidy of just over £2. IceSheffield and the English Institute of Sport each break even and need no subsidy.