By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter
Kimberley Sports Centre & Swimming Pool will close at the end of March following a decision Broxtowe Borough Council made behind closed doors on Tuesday night.
The authority later released a statement saying it could no longer meet “very significant” costs to keep it running.
The council says no agreement could be reached over funding after months of negotiations between the parties which operate it – the council, Kimberley School and Liberty Leisure Ltd.
The loss has been described as “absolutely devastating” by one local councillor, who criticised how the decision had been made.
Council reports on the issue have been kept private, and the press and public were excluded from the council debate which led to the decision on Tuesday night (December 6).
No details have been released about the costs involved.
More than 3,400 people have signed an online petition to keep the service open.
Council Leader Milan Radulovic (Lab) released a statement on Wednesday outlining the council’s decision.
He said “Negotiations have been ongoing between the Council, Liberty Leisure Ltd, and Kimberley School for a few months, with all parties working together to ensure leisure provision in Kimberley in the future,” he said.
“Regrettably, these negotiations have now reached a stage where the Council can no longer commit to the very significant financial contributions proposed by the school to maintain the Kimberley Gym and Swim arrangements.
“This is understandably a very distressing time for the employees at Kimberley Gym and Swim and they are being fully supported, including looking at redeployment opportunities within the Council and its other leisure facilities should redundancies have to be made.
“We also understand that this will be disappointing news to our customers, members, residents and the community who use the fitness and swimming facilities operated at the site by Liberty Leisure Ltd.
“Liberty Leisure Ltd will continue to operate gym and fitness classes, swimming, including Swim School and Exercise Referral until 31 March 2024.
“We know that access to leisure facilities is important to residents as a way to live healthy, active lives so Liberty Leisure Ltd, the Council’s Leisure company will be working with Council Officers to seek alternative leisure sites in the north of the Borough.”
The statement had no information about the costs involved or the number of staff affected.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service and the public were asked to leave last night’s cabinet meeting while councillors discussed the issue, as the council said the public interest in keeping the debate private outweighed that of holding the discussion in public.
The pre-meeting report on the decision was labelled as ‘exempt’ due to the commercial details in it.
Conservative members protested the exclusion, demanding an explanation for why the public couldn’t remain in the chamber.
Councillor Philip Owen (Con), who represents a neighbouring ward, said: “This is absolutely devastating for the area. It’s been an important part of the community for 50 years.
“It was a hugely popular leisure centre, so this decision will affect not just Kimberley but Watnall and Nuthall.
“There doesn’t seen to be any replacement on the horizon – that is a long way off. Some people may travel to other centres, despite the inconvenience, but others will cease to lead active lifestyles.
“Kimberley Swimming Club, which has been hugely successful over the years, will have nowhere else to go.
“This has all happened behind closed doors with no public report. People have heard rumours and have began writing to their councillors and signing a petition.
“They will be very angry now this has all come out. They’ve lost a facility with no obvious sign of a replacement.”
Liberty Leisure Ltd issued a statement saying: “We understand that this will be extremely disappointing news to our customers, members, clubs, residents and the community who use and value the fitness and swimming facilities operated at the site.
“Please continue to use the facilities as normal – we remain committed to maintaining the highest standards of service for all our customers. Members and customers of the facility will receive updates on the status of their membership and swimming lessons in the new year.”
The Kimberley School said the costs to run the pool and other facilities have become unaffordable.
“The costs of energy – electricity and gas have doubled in the last eighteen months following the war in the Ukraine and its impact on global energy prices. As swimming pools require vast amounts of energy a doubling of this cost is a huge additional cost,” it said in a statement posted on its website.
“We remain in discussions with Broxtowe Borough Council and LL regarding the possibility of maintaining a gym and classes offer at the Sports Centre, though it is unclear how viable this may be.”
The school adds that the sports centre, which was built 50 years ago, is “well beyond its intended lifespan”.
“The costs of a basic refurbishment are £2.4 million and these are just the priority items. This is economically unviable and a level of capital investment that is not realistic for the school or East Midlands Education Trust,” it said.