Joint leisure centre idea ‘disastrous’

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A campaign group says it would be “a disastrous decision” if public leisure centres in Dunstable and Houghton Regis were closed and replaced with a new centre to serve both areas.

That’s one of a wide range of ideas in a draft “audit and assessment” on leisure facilities in Central Beds.

A number of scenarios are being weighed up as Central Beds Council works on putting together a “leisure strategy” for the future.

But Houghton Regis Leisure Centre Action Group has been quick to stress it would oppose any idea of a new joint leisure centre for Dunstable and Houghton.

The group fought hard to help win a reprieve for the Houghton centre when it faced possible closure.

There was joy when the Central Beds body appointed Stevenage Leisure to run the centre in 2012/13, until the end of next March, after talks with the action group and Houghton Regis Town Council.

This week, the action group said that contract has now been extended to October 2013.

It is still pressing for the reopening of the centre’s axed pool, another idea explored in the draft document.

Now the group has urged people to back its strong opposition to any thoughts of setting up a joint centre.

A statement from the group says the team would consider any such scheme as “a disastrous decision from both leisure centres’ point of view”.

Instead, the campaigners are calling for the council to relaunch the existing Houghton pool and open a new centre and pool for the town in 2017.

They urge people to voice their views by writing to Central Beds Council, or by emailing the council team at

Central Beds executive councillor Brian Spurr explained: “As part of the council’s commitment to support the health and wellbeing of our local communities, we are developing a leisure facilities strategy for the area.

“We are acutely aware of the importance of leisure centres to local residents and their contribution to the health and wellbeing of the local community and have been pleased to work with the Houghton Regis Leisure Centre Action Group in the past to find an alternative to closure in Houghton Regis.

“We wanted to take a more considered approach to leisure provision across Central Bedfordshire, supporting and enabling the development of facilities that meet the needs of our communities now and in the future.

“It is essential we develop a leisure facilities strategy for the area, which will support access to sports and physical activity for all those who live and work in Central Bedfordshire. This strategy is already under way and we are undertaking extensive research to identify the type, number and location of leisure facilities for existing and new communities, whilst also looking at how flexible, fit for purpose, value-for-money facilities that meet local needs can be provided.

“The strategy covers four key areas – leisure facilities, recreation and open space, playing pitches and physical activity.

“We are currently developing the leisure facilities strategy, the first chapter of the overall strategy, and we are consulting with key stakeholders including Sport England, Public Health and local town and parish councils.”

A presentation on what has been explored so far will be given to Central Beds councillors this week.