18 March 2008
Nottingham Evening Post (p.5)

Evening Post

Easter closure cancelled, but battle goes on.

Campaigners have claimed a “partial victory” in their fight to save the Victoria Leisure Centre.

The city council had signalled it was ready to close the pool at the Easter. But strong local opposition means it looks set to back down on those plans at a meeting today.

The campaigners say they have achieved their first aim – delaying any closure while other options are looked at.

The council is expected to say the Sneinton centre will stay open for at least nine months while its future is weighed up by the local area committee – a process that should focus on cost and value.

Mat Anderson, organiser of the Save the Victoria Baths Campaign, said: “I see it as a partial victory.

“It is a big step forward, to get them keeping the centre open pending further consultation with the local community.” The campaign has put councillors under intense pressure since they took their decision to close on February 19.

A consultation, which ended on March 10, has attracted 1,194 letters, emails and completed Tell Us Your Views forms, distributed by the city council.

Some 95% said the Gedling Street, facility should stay open.

Petitions with 3,984 signatures were also submitted and more than 300 people marched in Old Market Square, while 250 attended a public meeting at the leisure centre organised as part of the campaign.

Pool supporters have given credit to the city council for listening.

Mr Anderson said: “This is democracy in action. They have listened to the community – and reacted.”

But he said he and his fellow campaigners recognised it was only a stay of execution and that they had to battle on to save the centre long-term, The detail of the council’s decision will be known later today.

But it is understood that its preferred option is to ultimately close the Victoria Leisure Centre and build a new one to serve the east side of the city.

Mr Anderson said: “I suspect a large group of campaigners will want to push to keep the heritage parts of the leisure centre open and want any money invested there.

“That would include the reopening of the Oval Pool, and refurbishment of the Turkish Baths and Gala Pool.

“These may be ‘red lines’ for the campaigners – and there may be a battle to be fought.”

The city council originally claimed that the Victoria Leisure Centre must close as part of a “transformation” of existing services, offering fewer facilities of a higher quality.

The council said the leisure centre requires major investment to bring it up to a good standard – and that it would cost up to £10m to replace it.

Coun David Trimble, portfolio holder for community and leisure at the city council, said: “We have done the consultation. We have listened.

“They have run an excellent campaign.”

Coun Trimble said it was now important that people who had taken part in the campaign also used the leisure centre.

Charles Walker