A SECOND community is preparing to take over a closure-threatened leisure centre.
Earlier this week The Journal reported how people in Coxhoe, County Durham, were planning to take over the running of their sports centre which the county council wants to close.
Now users of the Abbey Leisure Centre, six miles away in Pity Me, Durham, are also planning a takeover.
A steering group has been formed to run the sports centre as a community venture.
Retired headteacher Peter Hall, 60, an Abbey member who works out there three times a week, said: “The Abbey centre is not just a venue for fitness work, five-a-side football, ballet, dance, and a host of other activities.
“It is also a focal point of the community, a meeting place.
“I have been a member for 15 years and I have seen numbers increase and its users reflect every walk of life and of many and varied interests.
“We must have a centre that will be run for and by our community. We know what we need from our leisure centre and how best to contribute to our community.
“A community-run centre will put any profits back into the community, not the pockets of distant shareholders.
“We know what we need from our centre because we are its users and only with an independent, community-run centre can we put our users first.” Mr Hall said local GPs often refer patients to Abbey Leisure Centre to improve fitness and mental wellbeing.
Representatives of the steering group are shortly to meet with the county council to obtain the facts and figures necessary to produce a business plan.
Mr Hall added: “We are offering a positive approach to the future. Members will be asked for their input as to how we can make Abbey even more representative of the community and how they see its future.
“We already have plans to expand the usage of Abbey and bring in innovative ideas. We don't just want to keep Abbey open – we want to make it even better.
“We believe that when we come to present our plans to the council, it will see a determined and professional group committed to make Abbey Leisure Centre a model of excellence, which strengthens it as a valuable resource to the community it serves.” Local county councillor Mark Wilkes said: “This is a community-led group which has the future of the centre at its heart. The enthusiasm of the group is amazing and I am asking the council to give serious assistance and consideration to community and voluntary groups when they are making their deliberations on the future of this and other centres.”
Durham County Council has said it would welcome approaches from any community groups who would take the running of six closure-threatened sports centres off their hands.
Apart from Abbey and Coxoe, others the council want rid of are at Ushaw Moor, Sherburn, Crook and Ferryhill.