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Protesters get extra month to save centre

By Ed Elliot, Penistone Reporter Sunday 27th January 2013
PD34851 Making a a stand: Local residents Aysha Khan and Suzy Senior who went along to the protest at Stocksbridge Leisure Centre against its proposed closure.

Campaigners hoping to keep an under-threat leisure centre open have been given an extra month to put together a business plan.

 

Hundreds of protesters braved snowy conditions last weekend to oppose the proposed closure of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre, which is planned as part of cuts by Sheffield City Council.

 

Stocksbridge Town Council and members of the 'Save our Centre' campaign were initially told they only had until March to save the Moorland Drive centre but a reprieve has been granted until the end of April following a public meeting on Monday.

 

Sheffield City Coun Isobel Bowler said the council could not subsidise the centre for another year but it was willing to give the town council more time to explore options.

 

As of Wednesday, more than 4,000 people had signed a petition to oppose the closure and 5,000 names will trigger a debate on the issue at a full meeting of the city council.

 

Stocksbridge Town Councillor Alison Brelsford said the issue was particularly emotive in Stocksbridge because the land was bequeathed to the town in 1921 for the purpose of recreation, and the town's people collected the money to build the swimming pool, which opened in 1970. In 1974 the park and pool were transferred to the city council and a sports hall was added.

 

"It is absolutely scandalous that they have not consulted anybody about this before now," said Town Coun Brelsford. "Coun Bowler admitted the idea of closing Stocksbridge has been around for some months, but she did not want to consult us locally for political reasons.

This has meant that our local community has been robbed of valuable time needed to work up an alternative business plan.

 

"I believe that Sheffield City Council has completely underestimated the people of Stocksbridge - and has demonstrated they don't care. They seem to have thought that they could just quietly close our leisure centre and no one would notice."

 

About £1.1m needs to be cut from the city council's recreation budget, with the possible closure of Stocksbridge contributing about half that figure. The council has described the closure of the leisure centre as the 'least worst option' for Sheffield as a whole.

 

Campaigner Sarah Cowley, helped organise Saturday's protest and said about 700 turned out, including large numbers of children.

 

“It was an amazing response from people considering the horrendous weather," she said.

 

Following the protest, a meeting was held on Monday evening.

 

The event was so well-attended people were forced to listen to discussions from other rooms.

 

Sarah said despite the turnout, which included Stocksbridge and Penistone MP Angela Smith, she felt council officers were good at skirting issues.

 

The Stocksbridge community has now been challenged to come up with a business proposal for the centre or face losing it for good.

 

“I think it’s a done deal personally,” added Sarah. “I think they’ve left everything to the 11th hour so we can’t do anything about it.”

 

Another protest has been arranged for Wednesday – the day a petition will be handed to Sheffield council – outside Sheffield Town Hall.

 

The petition can be signed at www.stocksbridge.com, with various paper copies at different locations in the town.

 

Anyone who has any ideas or suggestions about the future of the centre should email Sarah Cowley - sarahcowley_242@me.com

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