Public consultation launched on possible closure of Cornish leisure centers
Falmouth, Launceston, Wadebridge and Saltash sites are under threat
Cornwall Council asked members of the public to comment on plans to close four recreation centers in Cornwall.
The council has launched a formal consultation on the possibility of closing the recreation centers in Falmouth, Launceston, Saltash and Wadebridge. In addition, the council is also considering closing the hydrotherapy pool at St Austell.
The council-owned recreation centers are currently operated by the national organization GLL under the name Better.
However, after encountering difficulties due to loss of income from the Covid-19 pandemic, GLL asked Cornwall Council if they could stop the operation of the four centers and the hydrotherapy pool.
As part of its consultation, the council is asking individuals and organizations to come up with ideas on how leisure services in Cornwall should be provided.
The consultation paper, released today, outlines individual recreation centers and how the board sees them.
What does the consultation say about my leisure center?
Ships and Castles in Falmouth
The board says it is “expensive to maintain” and has “limited physical space for swimming,” meaning it has a limited school supply with just five schools currently using it.
It also states that the center is only profitable during the summer months and is mainly used by tourists rather than residents. It also states that there is great competition for gyms and swimming pools in the area.
The council says there is a need for a facility in the Falmouth and Penryn area, but that the Ships and Castles site “lends itself to redevelopment to support the achievement of other council priorities.”
He adds: “If the center closes, we believe that an alternative offer is available within a 30 minute radius, including elsewhere in Falmouth or alternatively in Helston or Carn Brea.
Launceston Recreation Center
Cornwall council says the site is owned by a charity, Coronation Park Trust, and the lease expires in January 2023. It says it aims to keep the center open until then.
The board would then hand it over to the trust and they would decide the future of the center. They add that if the center closes, there are alternative facilities within a 30-minute radius.
Saltash Recreation Center
The board says it has a “relatively small user base” and that “the nature of the swim and the additional lifeguards required make it expensive to operate.”
He says he’s happy to delegate the center and services to other organizations and says if the center closes there are alternative facilities within a 30-minute radius such as Plymouth and Liskeard.
Wadebridge Recreation Center
Cornwall Council says the center is “not central and limited by the school site and parking lot”.
It indicates that the catchment area is “small” and overlaps with other recreation services including Bodmin Recreation Center 13 km away. The council says the majority of daytime use is done by the school, which reduces opportunities for income generation.
The board says they are happy to explore the possibility of outsourcing the center or services to others to operate and says if it closes there are other facilities within a 30-minute radius.
Hydrotherapy pool, St Austell
The board says that there is a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool at the Merlin Center at Hewas Water and that the St Austell pool is currently closed.
It is proposed that it will not reopen until further notice and that the board explore viable alternatives and work with user groups and the Merlin Center to discuss how to transition.
How can I have my say?
The consultation began on Wednesday (September 22) and will run until October 31.
In addition to an online survey, the board is also holding a series of virtual meetings. These will be specific to individual centers at risk.
They are as follows (all start at 7 p.m.):
October 6 – Falmouth Ships and Castles Leisure Center
October 7 – Launceston Recreation Center
October 11 – Wadebridge Recreation Center
October 13 – Saltash Leisure Center
October 14 – Hydrotherapy pool, St Austell
The questionnaire is available on Letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/leisure or to get a hard copy call 0300 1234 100.
What is the response of the officials?
Cllr Richard Pears, Client Portfolio Holder at Cornwall Council, said: “Leisure activities have been a lifeline for many of us over the past 18 months – whether it is an outing. at the gym or for a walk in the park, it is so important for our mental and physical well-being. This is why we are so eager to work with Cornwall residents and community groups to find a way to create a sustainable and fit for purpose recreation offering.
“However, it is undeniable that the last 18 months have been incredibly difficult, and despite the support of the government, we are facing some very real and very difficult financial decisions. This is why it is so important that we have these conversations now, so that we can share ideas and better understand the services that are important to you.
“I am convinced that by working together we can find solutions to these challenges.”
James Curry, GLL’s Manager for Cornwall, said: “In unprecedented times these proposed changes are truly a last resort and follow careful consideration of all options for us as an operator.
“As a non-profit charitable social enterprise, we have exhausted our small cash reserves.
“We have been partially or fully closed for much of the past eighteen months and unable to generate the revenue necessary to operate the service at sustainable levels.
The centers reopened on April 12, 2021 under current restrictions, which were not lifted until July 19.
“With a business still operating at 75% of 2019 levels, GLL had no choice but to seek additional support from Cornwall Council.
“Where our business model has previously supported loss-making centers in Cornwall, unfortunately it has not been possible to do so in the current climate and meet our contractual obligations.
“We will support the council’s community consultation and hope that it will identify appropriate and sustainable alternative operating models for these centers.”