Gateshead Council urged to 'pull out all the stops' as leisure centre reopening delayed

Gateshead Leisure Centre boarded up after its closure. Credit: Reach PLC

The reopening of a North East leisure centre closed earlier this year because of council budget cuts has been pushed back.

Gateshead Leisure Centre was due to reopen at the end of December but the community-led organisation behind the reopening say it now will not be ready until early 2024.

Gateshead Council closed its Gateshead and Birtley sites in July because it could no longer afford to maintain all of the borough's leisure centres.

In a statement, Gateshead Active, the group behind the reopening, said it had not been able to "appoint key personnel or enter into essential agreements" to get the leisure centre back into use as planned on 31 December but remained "fully committed" to making the site a success.

The group previously warned that failing to open by the end of 2023 would mean losing out on some time-dependent funding. However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that a short extension has been agreed.

Layla Barclay, of the separate Save Leisure Gateshead Campaign, told the LDRS: "We want the leisure centre to open as soon as possible. The longer this goes on, the more people get used to it not being there.

"People are missing out on swimming lessons, on the gym and other activities there, on the social and community aspects.

"With the bus strikes recently, that really has compounded things. People are stuck in this area at the moment and it has been very difficult to get anywhere else.

"We are still really feeling the loss of the leisure centre.

"Anything that can be done to get it open faster and get through these final stages would be really welcomed.

"We encourage the council to pull out all the stops to support Gateshead Active in reopening the leisure centre."

The council is yet to formally sign off on a community asset transfer that would allow Gateshead Active to take control of the leisure centre.

Gateshead Active told supporters that "there any many complexities that relate to the transfer of the building and are taking time to agree and complete".

A statement added: "As such, Gateshead Active have not been able to officially appoint key personnel or enter into essential agreements with the selected marketing agency, construction and other vendors which would allow us to meet the aim of a December 31 opening.

"The new opening date is now expected to be in early 2024. Although we cannot offer an exact date at this time, we will continue to be transparent and keep you updated.

"A number of very positive steps have been made in recent weeks and Gateshead Active and Gateshead Council remain fully committed to making this community site a success.

"In short, we will still be opening, this is only a postponement."

They said they were using the additional time to ensure facilities are fully up and running, training the new team and ensuring council requirements are met.

A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said: "We appreciate that this will be disappointing news to those who were expecting Gateshead Leisure Centre to reopen in December.

"However, both the council and Gateshead Active need to be confident that all requirements for a successful, sustainable reopening have been met before the transfer can be completed.

"Gateshead Active should be commended for the progress made so far and we're continuing to work closely with them through a robust and thorough transfer process in order to give the leisure centre its best chance of success as a community-run facility."

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