"Body Blow" to Newcastle's leisure facilities as staff laid off, hours cut despite Council loan

September 2, 2020 3:07 PM

The Liberal Democrats Opposition has described the closure of three leisure facilities in Newcastle as a "body blow" for the City. The facilities, outsourced by the Council to Greenwich Leisure Ltd., primarily serve less well-off parts of the City, where access to high-quality, affordable activity space is vitally important.

At a time of national crisis, during which public health is a vital priority, the Opposition are calling for urgent answers as to why these facilities are to close despite a loan from the Council's COVID-19 Rescue Fund. Some of this £5m fund has also been diverted to prop up the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Stephenson Quarter.

Commenting on the closures, Liberal Democrats Leader Nick Cott said: "Our thoughts are with the 40% of Greenwich Leisure staff whose jobs are at threat today. Longer term, our concerns are that the communities these facilities serve will have restricted access to preferred exercise activities. As we know, good physical health and regular exercise can help to protect against the worst effects of COVID-19, so to close them now is a body blow to the City's intention to improve residents' health and wellbeing.

"We need clarity around the conditions under which the loan to Greenwich Leisure was issued: were the Council aware in advance that three facilities would close, and did they extend the loan regardless? Is repayment of the loan now in jeopardy?"

Eldon Leisure Centre, Walker Activity Dome and West Denton Swimming Pool are to remain closed.

East End Pool, Gosforth Leisure Centre and Newcastle Park and Gym are to have "modified hours" - assumed to mean reduced.