Council to meet over Atherton Centre future

The Mayor in consultation with Cabinet, will be asked to decide next week if part of the Atherton Leisure Centre will be open in the New Year.

At a Cabinet meeting on Thursday they will be asked to keep open some facilities until at least June 2012. The Recorder understands that this could include the fitness centre and free weights area.

The report will also set out the Council’s assessment that a new-build leisure centre may be the best way of achieving reprovision of the facility, rather than refurbish the 1930s building in Romford Road. This will be the subject of consultation. The project will be included in next year’s capital budget.

The Mayor and councillors are also expected to announce a 12-week consultation on the future of the centre, to start on December 16, and approve a process to select a development partner to look at options for replacement.

The council is already successfully accommodating the needs of individual users, school and social groups in other leisure facilities across the borough,

More the half of the 35 schools that use the Atherton Leisure Centre have made alternative arrangements and all other swimming lessons have been relocated. The council has been in contact with schools that have not yet confirmed their plans. Outside clubs have also been advised to make other arrangements and it is sensible not to disrupt arrangements made already.

No decisions regarding the centre’s long-term future will be taken until the end of the consultation, when the council will consider plans for future leisure provision.

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It is understood the pool, dance studio and bowls club will close, allowing exploratory works to continue in other areas.

Last month Sport England and the council rejected campaigners’ claims that the council would be forced to return millions of pounds in funding. Sport England said this would happen only as a ‘last resort’.