A petition opposing the closure of Batley Sports and Tennis Centre has accumulated over 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
This comes following the news that three of the borough’s leisure centres – Dewsbury Sports Centre, Batley Sports and Tennis Centre and Colne Valley Leisure Centre – have been earmarked for permanent closure, with these three sites said to required a greater financial contribution from Kirklees Council than the other Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL)-run centres.
Both Kirklees Council and KAL – the charitable organisation responsible for running 11 of the district’s leisure centres on the council’s behalf – are facing financial difficulties, with the council trying to avoid effective bankruptcy and no longer able to offer KAL the same level of financial support as it did previously. As a result, KAL will be reducing its offer and a review is being carried out to determine which of the sites remain viable to operate.
A petition to save the Batley centre was launched by Howden Clough Football Club yesterday (19 September) and has already gained 4,482 signatures.
It states: “This centre is the home to Howden Clough Football Club and has been for many decades and we are asking locals to help us fight to keep our home and our children’s football club safe. Howden Clough JFC alone has over 300 children using its facilities per week. Not to mention the other sporting clubs that use the facilities too, for example, Yorkshire Elite, White Rose, Farsley Celtic, just to name a few.
“Local schools such as Windmill C of E Primary School, and Batley Girls High School just to name a couple are in regular use of the sports centre facilities as well as North Kirklees School Sports Partnership which also delivers physical education to children using these facilities.
“Amongst other things, this sports centre is a community hub for other sporting facilities, ranging from tennis to swimming and more used by people of all ages, and socio-economic groups. This facility is a massive part of the Birstall and Batley community, even families from afar come to use this facility for one of many clubs and events held at Batley Sports and Tennis Centre. The sports centre is always extremely busy and the loss of it will majorly impact the community.
“The purpose of this petition is to provide KAL and Kirklees Council that the people of Birstall, Batley and beyond will not let a huge part of our community go without trying our hardest to save it.
“Our children need their hobbies such as football, tennis and swimming, as well as a recreational space and a safe place to go which is what our sports centre provides for them. This will also put many people at risk of losing their jobs whilst we are in a cost-of-living crisis.”
In its last budget, Kirklees Council gave KAL a £6.1m rescue package to help it out with its financial difficulties which began during the pandemic and were then amplified by issues such as the soaring costs of energy, staffing and maintenance.
However, as the council faces its own severe financial problems and tries to make a saving of £47m this financial year, it can no longer provide KAL with the same level of support and says it can give the organisation a maximum of £2.55m per year.
A report detailing proposals for all of the leisure centres will go to the council’s cabinet next Tuesday (26 September) and seeks approval for a six-week period of consultation to begin on which centres should remain open. Under the current proposals, Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Spen Valley Leisure Centre would remain open.
The Stadium Health & Fitness Complex would also remain open so the council can resolve “complex leasing arrangements”, and options are being explored for Deighton Sports Arena when KAL withdraws from the site in November, with a community asset transfer being considered.
The council says six of the sites could keep operating due to the relatively low level of financial contribution required or the need for more time to secure alternative funding or alternative offers explored. This is the case for the centres at Holmfirth and Bradley Park Golf Course. If government funding is secured for Scissett Baths and Fitness Centre, this could also remain open.