After a year of uncertainty, the rebuilding of the Merland Rise Leisure Centre — with a new swimming pool — has been given the green light. The strength of resident opposition surprised Council leaders.
Last year, due to budget pressures, the Borough Council shocked residents by reversing its previous commitment to rebuild the swimming pool, proposing only a ‘dry-side’ facility (sports hall, squash, gym, studio etc). This short-changed people unfairly in the north of the borough as a new pool is under construction down in Horley, and the Donyngs centre in Redhill has received a complete make-over.
Initially, the Borough Council conceded a review to see if the current pool could be refurbished. Technical appraisals showed that the total cost would be uncertain but still many millions. It would also involve operating losses - a minimum 8 month closure, with no income and compensation to be paid to the operator (Greenwich Leisure) for this period, and the likely long-term loss of some of the existing client base, as people moved to facilities elsewhere. And operating costs would be higher as energy efficiency would be less than a new centre.
Besides the strongly stated residents’ views (backed up by a comprehensive market survey), two factors swung the decision in favour of building a pool and not just a dry-side facility. Firstly, the operator would be entitled to ongoing
compensation for the loss of revenue from the pool. And secondly, the value of the land on which the existing Leisure Centre sits has been substantially upgraded (the plan is based on selling this land for housing, to provide the capital
to fund the new Leisure Centre), and this revaluation provides the extra money to fund the swimming pool.
The new Leisure Centre will include a 25-metre pool, teaching pool, 50 station gym, 30 person studio, crèche, and café. It will be built on land behind the Tattenhams Community Centre and the Phoenix Youth Club, which will be pulled
down to make way for it. The existing Leisure Centre will continue in service until the new one comes on stream, avoiding the void period costs of refurbishment.
The Borough Council is looking for money from the County Council to fund additional facilities – the sports hall, plus replacement youth and community centre – to be funded from profits when the former de Burgh playing fields are
eventually sold for housing. The County Council response is awaited.
On 10 February Reigate and Banstead Council issued the following statement:
"Nuffield Health, which operates the Council’s three leisure centres under contract, has agreed in principle to transfer its Community Fitness business to GLL (Greenwich Leisure Ltd). The move will see the management contract for 13 local authority leisure facilities, including Banstead Leisure Centre, The Horley
Anderson Centre and Donyngs Recreation Centre in Redhill, transfer to GLL from 31 March 2011.”
Nuffield Health has taken the decision to exit from the direct management of local authority fitness facilities to concentrate on developing its clinical services and public health offering.
Cllr Adam De Save, Executive Member for Leisure and Wellbeing, said:
‘“GLL is an experienced leisure operator with a proven track record. The change in our service provider to GLL will not affect the terms of the leisure centre management contract which will remain the same. This includes the investment at Donyngs that is already underway.”