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Longdendale leisure site earmarked for demolition

The Active Ashton and Adventure Longdendale sites are to be demolished following their closure, it has been revealed.

Ashton’s swimming pool will be demolished despite a passionate campaign by residents and a 7,000-strong petition calling for it to be saved.

Three leisure centres in Tameside were closed permanently in September amid provider Active Tameside’s struggle with energy prices and the cost of products, insurance and staff.

Active Ashton has two swimming pools and a gym, Adventure Longdendale contains a trampoline park, laser zone and soft play area for children, and Active Etherow is the trust’s dedicated indoor bowling centre.

Active Tameside, a registered charity, said that the huge increase in energy bills has taken the cost of utilities at its sites up to £2 million a year.

But the announcement of closures prompted a huge backlash from residents, specifically around Ashton Pool, with many saying it would adversely affect people who swim locally for their physical and mental health.

A petition signed by 7,000 people was lodged with the council in August, calling on the council to keep the Active Ashton facilities on Water Street open.

Tameside Council, which owns the buildings, had insisted the state of its finances also meant it could not afford to pick up the bill and rescue the sites.

And at a cabinet meeting, councillors agreed to declare both the Active Ashton and Adventure Longdendale sites ‘surplus to requirements’ by the local authority.

It means that both buildings will now be demolished, for which the authority is budgeting a pot of £2 million.

Councillor Jacqueline North, first deputy for finance, resources and

transformation, told the meeting that it was ‘very disappointing’ that they were not getting ‘sustained investment in public swimming pools’ from government.

“The council has agreed to accept the surrender of the leases for Ashton Pool and Active Longdendale and the report seeks permission to proceed with demolition of both buildings,” she said.

“Leisure trusts like Active Tameside are faced with really unprecedented increases in their energy costs, ageing buildings and government spending cuts.

“Community Leisure UK which represents leisure trusts like Active Tameside have pointed out that since 2010, 400 pools have had to close.

“And if proper and sustained funding is not made available, it’s likely that a further 2,000 will close by the end of the decade.

“I think we must acknowledge the strength of feeling among those that use Ashton Pool and this is evidenced in the petition that has been received.

“The pool is however at the end of its expected lifespan and with maintenance and revenue costs far above Active Tameside’s ability to sustain and the replacement costs for a new pool far out of reach of Tameside’s ability as we look to maintain our core services.

“The council has received assurances that from Active Tameside that all the group activities held at the pool, including the swimming club and lessons, have been accommodated at the four other pools in the borough.”

However a short term arrangement has been agreed with the Etherow Trust to enable the facility to remain open to the public ‘until a sustainable solution can be identified’.

The meeting was told that the council had bid to the government’s Swimming Pool Support Fund – a pot of £60 – and had been provisionally awarded £307,500 from phase one of the fund to support the operational costs of Active Tameside at Active Copley and Active Hyde.

Phase two of the fund will see applications for pools with increased cost pressures and provided funding to enable updates to make buildings more energy efficient.

Tameside council has applied for funding to Sport England for two centres; Denton Wellness Centre and Active Copley, which officers say they believe ‘matches the criteria’ and would assist with ‘surging energy costs’.

Council leader Ged Cooney said: “I have seen, and quite rightly so, the passion of people in Ashton and around, the passion of people who use the centres, not just in Ashton but the ones in Longdendale.

“But it shows you, we’ve bid where we can, as much as we can, as often as we can, and they give us [funding] for two centres and they name them. They designate where that’s going.

“Give us the money, we can carry on with everything. But if you’re going to start cutting and cutting, we haven’t got a spare penny anywhere.

“As a person who actually uses the Active Tameside facilities, they are excellent and they’re great for the community. 

“It’s a shame but it’s not of our doing. Active Tameside are regulated by the Charity Commission, not by us.”

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