Campaigners hope Pity Me centre can be saved

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a closure-threatened sports centre hope to run it privately.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a closure-threatened sports centre hope to run it privately.

Durham county councillors Mark Wilkes and Amanda Hopgood say they have been working for weeks to find solutions to the council’s proposals to close Abbey Leisure Centre at Pity Me.

Mark Wilkes, county councillor for Framwellgate Moor Division, said: “We have held meetings with senior officers at County Hall with the objective of creating a sustainable business plan.

“We have received and requested a large amount of information relating to the running of the centre. A number of issues have arisen but we are confident the council will assist us in this process.”

In the council’s report to cabinet two weeks ago, it was made clear that the centre could be saved if it was run by a charitable trust or by a private organisation.

Coun Hopgood said: “We have been in discussion with a not for profit organisation as well as setting up a petition on the council’s website for residents to sign.

“It is clear that a positive solution can be found, but this must be done within County Durham as it will be the council that makes the final decisions.”

Both councillors are confident that major improvements to the centre could also be made including extending facilities for younger people. They have also asked for access to the petition pages on the county council website to be made easier for residents to find.

Coun Hopgood added: “For some time now we have been seeking support for improved youth facilities at the centre from the council. I am certain that the centre can stay open with such improvements as part of a business plan. They key is to ensure that the centre becomes a hub for the whole community.”

The county council is currently consulting on the future of six leisure centres.

Coun Wilkes said: “What is fundamental in this process is that it is non-political – only one thing matters – saving and improving Abbey Leisure Centre.”

Residents in Crook, County Durham, are also attempting to prevent the closure of a sports centre and swimming pool – Glenholme – in the town.

Cost-cutting ordered by the Government means the county council has to deliver £125m of spending cuts, about 30% of the council’s budget, over four years.

North West Durham MP Pat Glass said: “Glenholme Leisure Complex is an important community leisure facility that provides a wide range of activities for people of all ages.

“To lose it would be a huge blow to the local community. People should not have to travel longer distances to enjoy leisure facilities and to keep fit.”


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