Peaceful protest over leisure centre closure

By Richard Whitehouse   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Saturday 30th October 2021 5:00 am

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PEOPLE fighting to save their leisure centre will gather for a peaceful protest today (Saturday) in the hope that Cornwall Council will not close it down.

Saltash Leisure Centre is one of four centres – along with Falmouth, Launceston and Wadebridge and the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell – that could close after Cornwall Council asked operator GLL to review its services.

The council was given two options – the first would be to subsidise the facilities at risk so they could stay open or for them to be removed from GLL’s contract. It chose the latter.

Public consultation is currently underway over the council’s leisure strategy which states that it is looking for solutions to keep the facilities open – possibly through them being handed over to community groups or town councils.

Lisa Heydon has helped organise the event on Saturday in Saltash where people will gather at the town’s leisure centre to support it staying open.

She said that she visits the centre almost every day: “I am 62, I don’t live in Saltash, I live in Callington. But Saltash is my choice, even though it is a 20-mile round trip. That is because they make you feel welcome, it’s like a community. It would be a travesty if it closed.”

Lisa said she first joined the centre five or six years ago after being advised to keep more active to help improve her health.

She decided to start swimming and said she would go to the centre every night and after trying other centres chose Saltash after finding it more comfortable.

“People are so welcoming at Saltash, it is very user friendly in terms of easy access which has been so helpful for me.

“I am not a wheelchair user but I am less able and I find it difficult at other pools, it is just so easy to get in and out at Saltash. That is massive for me personally and those who are less able and disabled.”

Lisa said she really missed the chance to go to the centre during the COVID lockdown and had appreciated it even more since it reopened.

“Since going back after lockdown to be able to swim up and down, it is absolutely massive in terms of my health and wellbeing. This is what everybody is saying – we need the centre for people to stay fit and healthy.”

Lisa said that as well as regular swimming she also goes to aqua aerobics classes which she said are so popular there is a waiting list for places.

She said that she did not understand the claims that the centre is underused and urged Cornwall councillors to go at the weekend when many families use the pool.

And it is not just staying fit and healthy, Lisa has also made a number of friends through the centre and says that since she started up a Facebook page to bring people together she has made even more friends.

She said she hopes that as many people as possible, of all ages, will go along on Saturday to show their support for the centre.

“This doesn’t just affect Saltash, it affects people from all over the local area and some from Plymouth. There are 1,400 members of the Facebook page which I think shows how much people care about it.

“I know how much I love Saltash Leisure Centre and I know I won’t get that same welcome anywhere else. That is so important for people, especially people like myself who are a bit self-conscious.

“To lose Saltash Leisure Centre I think would be a travesty for lots and lots of people.”

The protest will take place at noon on Saturday with people meeting in the car park at Saltash Leisure Centre.