Shuttered leisure centres in Newcastle have been given a £700,000 lifeline to help them reopen.
Newcastle City Council has confirmed that it has won a share of Sport England’s National Leisure Recovery Fund, which was set up to help publicly-owned centres survive the devastating financial impact of lockdown closures.
The cash will be split among 11 sites across the city run by eight different operators – the City Baths, East End Pool, Elswick Pool, Gosforth Pool, Jesmond Pool, Kenton Park Sports Centre, Newburn Leisure Centre, Newcastle Eagles Arena, Newcastle Trampoline Park, Tyneside Badminton Centre, and West Denton Leisure Centre.
However, there is nothing for three sites that have remained indefinitely shut since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
West Denton Pool, Eldon Leisure, and the Walker Activity Dome have been kept shut by operator GLL, which announced 35 job losses in the city last September.
The closure of the outer west pool has sparked particular outrage, with complaints over a lack of facilities in that part of the city.
Having rejected calls to bring the site back under its control, the council recently announced surprise £2m plans that could see a new pool built next door to the current facility – with a potential 2023 opening date.
CounCILLOR Irim Ali, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and public health, welcomed the Sport England cash boost but admitted there would be “a limit to what these amounts will achieve”.
The Labour councillor said: We all know the leisure industry nationally has been severely affected by the pandemic. Operators have gone bust while others have had to close some facilities just to survive.
“Sadly, not all facilities have been able to reopen in Newcastle, but the council understands the important contribution the sector makes to people’s physical and mental health which is why we are passing all of this money straight on to the operators.
“Admittedly, there is a limit to what these amounts will achieve, but we will distribute it as fairly as possible and hope it helps compensate operators for some of their losses.
“Having a vibrant leisure sector is one of those things that makes Newcastle a great city, so the council is lobbying hard for more financial support for the sector.”
The council added that the grant funding will be used for costs and loss of income incurred during the current lockdown and that it is carrying out a strategic review of leisure provision across the city.
Kenton councillor Stephen Lambert, a trustee of Kenton Park Sports Centre, said he was “delighted” that the venue was among those that will get some financial relief.