Council-run sports facilities in Tendring are to be consolidated within its leisure centres.
Across the past five years Tendring District Council (TDC) has invested considerable money at Dovercourt Bay Lifestyles, Walton-on-the-Naze Lifestyles and Clacton Leisure Centre – with a £575k project at the latter revamping the health suite area and changing rooms completed.
The council noted at Cabinet today (Friday, 17 December) that agreements with the Sigma Trust, which owns the facilities at Brightlingsea and Harwich Sports Centres, are due to expire at the end of this calendar year.
Councillors agreed to let the agreements expire on 31 December 2021, but to provide transitional support for up to three months to enable as much community use of the facilities as possible.
This follows on from the ending of a facilities agreement with Manningtree High School in July.
Alex Porter, TDC Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, said the quality of facilities is important for the authority, and the decision would allow further investment in its amenities.
“We can deliver high-quality sports facilities, on a sustainable footing and at a reasonable cost to the tax payer, by focusing our investment in the leisure centres we own and run – rather than operating out of other buildings. This worked successfully in the summer when the agreement ended in Manningtree,” Councillor Porter said.
“We also know the way people get active is changing, from customer trends pre-pandemic, how we exercised during lockdown, and from the work of the Active Essex Sport England Local Delivery Pilot which we are part of – so working with partners in the community will be important going forward.
“I would like to sincerely thank our staff who operate these centres, and reassure them that we aim to place all staff at our other sites.
“Sigma Trust, which owns the sports centres, are excellent partners and we are continuing to work with them on the new 3G pitch project at Clacton Leisure Centre. Our approach is about the council considering whether to invest in buildings – rather than grounds – it does not own and has no long-term control over.
“We want a smooth transition for the public to community use of the facilities at Brightlingsea and Harwich, so the council will provide transitional support after the agreement ends, for up to three months.”
A spokesman for Sigma Trust said: “We note the decision of Tendring District Council and we will be working with the council during this transitional period to accommodate as many bookings as possible, focused on the community use of facilities.”
TDC will be in contact with clubs and users in the New Year to develop future arrangements. All existing bookings made for January will be honoured.
The council will invite representatives from the relevant town councils and the Sigma Trust to join an engagement group to meet during the transition period to work through the operations of providing community use from the facilities.
It costs TDC almost £150,000 a year to run the two sites, and with attendances decreasing prior to the pandemic the subsidy was running higher than budgeted for.
TDC operations at Manningtree Sports Centre ended in the summer after the school trust which owned the facilities ended the joint-use agreement with the council, in turn achieving £55,300 in annual savings to the authority.