Saltash leisure centre saved from closure - others in Cornwall are still at risk

A leisure centre in Cornwall that was threatened with closure has been saved, however a question mark remains over the future of four other facilities in the county.

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet was told on Wednesday December 15 that discussions with its contracted operator GLL had taken place and an agreement had been reached for Saltash Leisure Centre to remain open.

The Cabinet also discussed proposals for GLL to alter its current 25-year contract to run all of Cornwall's 13 leisure facilities.

This includes the centres in Falmouth, Saltash, Launceston, Wadebridge and the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell.

The Mayor of Saltash, Councillor Pete Samuels, said: "It's fantastic news for the community of Saltash. The best news we could have hoped for.

"Now we've got it, we've got to use it, or in the future we could lose it. We've got to really promote the leisure centre, which has not be done in the past, in a such a way that it will bring in new membership and make profitable for the future."

There is also temporary reprieve for Launceston.

The Council has agreed to cover all of the costs until the end of its lease in January 2023.

After that date the original site owners, Coronation Park Trust, will take over the site again.

The Mayor of Saltash said it is 'the best news we could have hoped for'. Credit: ITV West Country

But the future of Wadebridge, Ships and Castles in Falmouth, the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell and the long-term future of Launceston, still hang in the balance.

However, Councillor Richard Pears, Cabinet member responsible for Leisure, said that the council would continue to work with community groups and leisure centre operators who have expressed an interest in taking on the at-risk services.

Cllr Richard Pears said: “No one wants to see leisure centres close, and we want to explore every option to avoid that.”   

“We have taken on board the views of our residents through public consultation and engagement, and the views of our fellow councillors through the scrutiny committee, as well as through the public consultation.”  

“We, alongside other local authorities, have some difficult decisions to make to ensure our critical services and statutory obligations are met, bearing in mind that there is no statutory requirement for local authorities to provide leisure services.

"The Council is not in a position to subsidise the running of these leisure centres and provide extra on-going funding to keep them open.” 

There have been a number of protests in recent months against the closure of leisure centres. Credit: ITV West Country

James Curry, Head of Service for GLL in Cornwall, said: “GLL is pleased that the Saltash Leisure Centre will remain in our Cornwall partnership and that we are being given the opportunity.

"We remain committed to ensuring a sustainable way forward for the other facilities under threat of closure and, in accordance with our Cornwall Council contract, will collaborate fully with those parties and organisations interested in taking them on.

"As a not-for-profit social enterprise, our principal aim has always been to provide local communities with good quality, accessible leisure provision and today’s decisions are a welcome, positive way forward."

Ships and Castles in Falmouth is one of the at-risk leisure centres. Credit: ITV West Country

In the Cabinet meeting today, Dick Cole, Leader of Mebyon Kernow and a member of the scrutiny committee which considered the issue last week, asked Cllr Pears to give a guarantee that no leisure centres would close.

Cllr Pears replied: “I cannot rule out closure, absolutely not I’m afraid.”

Under the recommendations agreed by the Cabinet, GLL will be allowed to stop running the leisure centres in Falmouth, Launceston and Wadebridge and the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell from April 2022.

Councillors also agreed to continue working with those groups and organisations that have expressed interest in taking over the threatened services and to provide funding for transition costs if required.

They have also agreed that any capital funding which had previously been agreed for the at-risk centres would be available for any new operators to access.

They also agreed to allow more work to be done in bringing forward the new leisure strategy for the council - which aims to have a leisure centre and pool within a 30-minute drive of all residents.

In addition, Cllr Pears said that discussions were ongoing about the hydrotherapy pool in particular with the NHS and the Merlin Centre, to try and find the best way forward.

The Cabinet agreed to the recommendations unanimously.

A further report on progress made towards securing the future of the leisure centres in Wadebridge and Falmouth, and the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell will be brought to Cabinet in February 2022.