Leaders of South Kesteven District Council want to close Deepings Leisure Centre due to ‘serious health and safety concerns’ after repair costs shot through roof to £1.2 million.
However, Independent councillors have accused the Conservative leadership of going back on their word over the plans. The independents have launched a petition saying “Deepings deserve better better than Conservative broken promises, betrays, incompetence and downright lies,” as they demand the council to rethink the closure plans.
The petition calls for £1.4 million to be allocated for repairs to the existing building, with a further £600,000 put aside for ongoing maintenance over the next four years. They also said if a new leisure centre was to open, it should be by early 2025 at the latest.
Virginia Moran, SKDC Councillor for Market and West Deeping and deputy mayor of the town, told The Lincolnite that the petition already had over 100 signatures within the first hour. This number rose to over 500 by early evening on Friday.
Deepings Leisure Centre, which has been managed by the council since it was built in 1974, was closed for safety reasons after rainwater leaks on Tuesday, July 27. It will now be the subject of an emergency Cabinet meeting on August 17 after a Building Conditions Survey highlighted significant repair and remedial work.
LeisureSK Ltd currently employs six full-time and 22 part-time and casual members of staff at Deepings Leisure Centre. All staff have been informed of the condition of the building and the report going before Cabinet, and opportunities will be explored to redeploy the affected staff across the district council’s remaining three leisure centres.
Councillor Moran said: “Deepings has been dealt a terrible double-whammy. As well as breaking their promise to build a new Deepings Leisure Centre, the Conservatives intend making the ‘temporary’ closure of the existing facility permanent, leaving our community without facilities and 22 dedicated staff facing an uncertain future.
“This would never have been allowed to happen in Grantham or Stamford. The people of Deepings deserve better.”
Councillor Phil Dilks said: “Every Conservative elected on these solemn promises should hang their heads in shame. They can never be trusted again.”
A report before Cabinet next week said a total replacement of the roof is the only option to ensure the safety of the building, and that the cost would be estimated at more than £1.2 million.
The building and land is owned by Lincolnshire County Council and the facility is managed by the district council.
Both the county and district councils have agreed that the leisure centre is now past its economic and operational life and there is a significant imminent health and safety risk.
The report says the district council wants to close the leisure centre in its current building with effect from September 1, 2021.
Barry Dobson, Deputy Leader of South Kesteven District Council and Cabinet Member for Leisure said: “While the report highlighted no immediate health and safety concerns at the time it was completed, the recent torrential rain has accelerated the deterioration of the building and regrettably forced us to close the centre temporarily.
“People’s safety is our most important concern, but we do recognise the impact of the potential closure of this important community facility.
“The report and recent temporary closure of the building highlights the need for a new Leisure Centre in the Deepings.
“There is an ongoing shared ambition between the council and Lincolnshire County Council to ensure a replacement Leisure Centre is established in the Deepings and to identify a suitable location.”
All outdoor facilities such as the football and rugby pitches on Litchfield Road, will remain available for use.
Lincolnshire County Council said that if the leisure centre ceases its operation it will support The Deepings School, which also uses the buildings, to secure a suitable sports hall solution in the short-term. It will also work with Anthem Trust on how best to re-instate a fit for purpose school sports hall for The Deepings Academy.
The county council has also offered land on Millfield Road as a potential site for a new leisure centre, but independent campaigners do not think this is a viable option as that area is still protected in the neighbourhood plan.