A leisure centre that was shut down under council budget cuts could reopen “within the next three months”, it is hoped.
Locals hoping to see Gateshead Leisure Centre brought back to life have been urged to stay patient as efforts to return it to use continue behind the scenes.
The huge sports hub in Saltwell was closed down last summer as a result of Gateshead Council cost-cutting measures, despite a backlash from residents who warned that its loss would have a devastating impact on their community.
A new organisation, Gateshead Active, is bidding to take control of the facility from the cash-strapped local authority and reinvigorate it.
But, while the council has agreed in principle to a community asset transfer that would see the site handed over on a 50-year lease, the deal is not yet done.
Gateshead Active had hoped to get the leisure centre, in Alexandra Road, back open before the end of 2023 – but were unable to hit that target as they continue to work up plans for what will be an “extremely complex” operation.
In an update issued to supporters this week, the community-led group said that it remains unable to commit to a firm reopening date – but is “confident” that the centre’s doors will be open again in the next three months.
The update said: “After a positive cabinet meeting on the 19th of December, where the council voted in favour of the transfer, we continue to positively move forward with reponing the leisure centre. We now have several key members of our leadership team in place.
“They, along with the board members are now working through all the process and policy documentation that are required by the council for handover. While we would love to commit to a date, we remain unable to at this time.
“However, we are confident we will be open within the next three months. We appreciate all of your encouragement during this complex process, and we ask you remain patient and continue to support us.
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“We hear how keen you are to get signed up to our facilities and clubs, and we will be launching our sign-up process in a matter of weeks. Publishing timetables and full pricing for all the facilities in the new leisure centre is a top priority, so stay tuned for more updates coming soon.”
Birtley’s swimming pool was also shut down last summer by the council and is the subject of a separate asset transfer plan, led by members of the Gateshead and Whickham Swimming Club (GAW) and Birtley Amateur Swimming Club.
They have said that the pool could reopen in September 2024.