Volunteers to run Deerness Leisure Centre if the axe falls

MORE than 100 parents of young gymnasts from an internationally renowned club have volunteered to keep it open if council bosses decide to wield the axe.

Gymnasts train at Deerness Sports and Leisure Centre in Ushaw Moor, which could be forced to close...Erin Walker and partner Rhys Maxwell

MORE than 100 parents of young gymnasts from an internationally renowned club have volunteered to keep it open if council bosses decide to wield the axe.

Representatives from Deerness Gymnastic Club, which train at Ushaw Moor, near Durham City, handed a 4,000 signature petition to Durham County Council chairman Dennis Morgan yesterday urging civic bosses not to close the sports centre where they train.

But one of the coaches, Glen Wharton, said 120 volunteers had offered to help keep it open if councillors did decide they could no longer afford to run it.

“We have parents in all sorts of trades, electricians, landscapers, joiners. They have all offered to work for nothing to ensure the club survives,” he said.

“We have a thriving club with regional, national, international, European and world champions.

“The parents and supporters are determined it will not close. If we have to we will be prepared to take over the sports centre ourselves.”

Local county councillor John Wilkinson said the uncertainty over the club’s future had already cost them a visit from top East European gymnasts.

“They were due to visit this October but called the visit off. This means the county has lost revenue from hotel bookings and the like,” he said. “What I would not like to see would be for the county to sell the sports centre to a private company which is simply in business to make a profit.

“If the council is unwilling to keep it open themselves they should at least allow the gymnastics club the chance to do so.”

Ushaw Moor Sports Centre is one of six which Durham County Council has threatened to close in order to make savings of £1.2m a year. The others are at Coxhoe, Crook, Ferryhill, Pity Me and Sherburn.

This week community groups from Sherburn and Pity Me handed in initial business plans which they hope will be accepted by the council to allow leisure centres to be run by the community.

County Councillor Mark Wilkes, who supports a steering group trying to keep Abbey Leisure Centre in Pity Me open, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Abbey Leisure Centre to be run by the community, for the community, building on the successes of the past to make the Abbey an inspirational centre. I am particularly keen to support proposals for enhanced facilities for young people and the disabled. It is also clear that this and other proposals being put forward illustrate there is a future for the Centre. It does not need to close and I hope Durham County Council will recognise the enormous potential a community-run facility can offer.”

The council’s neighbourhood services Terry Collins said: “We have had expressions of interest from a number of parties, including businesses and community groups and asked them to submit initial business plans by June 10.”


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