A COMMUNITY group fighting to keep Wadebridge Leisure Centre open say they have a “glimmer of hope” after a number of organisations indicated they might take it over.
The leisure centre is one of five facilities in Cornwall which are under threat of closure after operator GLL told Cornwall Council that it could no longer run them without financial subsidy.
Along with Wadebridge, leisure centres in Launceston, Saltash and Falmouth are being considered for closure along with the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell.
Cornwall Council has said that it does not have any budget for leisure services and that they are not a statutory requirement for local councils to provide. The Cabinet is set to make a decision on the future of the centres next month and the council has said that it is willing to work with organisations which could take them over.
If alternative providers cannot be found, then the facilities could start to close as early as April next year.
Since the possibility of closures was announced there have been a number of events and protests against the move. Campaigners say that the centres are essential for the health and wellbeing of people all over Cornwall and also play an important part in teaching children how to swim.
Cornwall Council has said that under its leisure strategy it wants to ensure that residents in Cornwall are no more than a 30-minute drive from leisure centres and swimming pools.
Objectors to the closure plans have said that alternative leisure centres are already operating at full capacity and that encouraging people to travel further to access facilities goes against the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.
Friends of Wadebridge Leisure Centre (FOWLC) said this week that several expressions of interest were to be submitted to Cornwall Council to take on the town’s facilities.
FOWLC, who organised a protest at County Hall last month, had approached commercial organisations and said they had had positive engagement with one of those submitting a bid.
Amanda Pennington, Mayor of Wadebridge and founder of FOWLC, said: “Our intention is to support an alternative bid that aligns closely with the needs of the Wadebridge community.”
Emma Tudge, FOWLC business strategist and gym owner, added: “If none of the bids are successful, then we will look to form our own Community Interest Company (CIC) to ensure that the Wadebridge Leisure Centre remains open for current and future generations.”
The community group said that they had also made contact with similar groups in the other areas potentially affected by the closures to see if they could work together.
North Cornwall MP Scott Mann has also said that he “strongly opposes” any closure of leisure centres.
With both Launceston and Wadebridge in his constituency, the Conservative MP said he wanted to protect the facilities.
He said: “I strongly oppose any decision to close the leisure centres. Whilst this is a matter for the local authority and not Westminster, I am doing what I can to try and resolve the situation. If GLL does decide it wants to close the sites, then I believe they should gradually transfer control over to a community-led organisation that has support from the council.
“I have made it quite clear to the Cabinet Member and council officer responsible for leisure that my constituents want their centres to stay open.
“My colleagues and I in Parliament are working with all stakeholders to ensure the leisure centres are accessible for the community. I have also held a meeting with Swim England to get a better understanding of the bigger picture.”
This week a petition seeking to save the centres and ensure all Cornwall councillors get to have a say on the decision collected more than 5,000 signatures. That number means that the petition will be subject to a debate at New County Hall. Those behind the petition are now aiming to collect 7,500 signatures to show the strength of feeling about the proposals.