Dudley Council Make U-Turn On Leisure Centre Plans

Dudley Council has backed down over its plan to have only two leisure centres - now saying it favours having three in their current locations.

Proposals to close its existing leisure centres in Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen and build two new facilities in unspecified areas sparked uproar amid concerns people would be left without easy access to centres.

Council bosses insisted 'all options' had been on the table and it had followed Sport England's recommendations by proposing to move forward with two centres. Regeneration chief Councillor Khurshid Ahmed said he had listened to views of the public on the controversial plan.

Opposition Conservative and UKIP councillors had insisted they would not support having two leisure centres - putting Labour in a difficult position as it does not command a majority.

Councillor Ahmed said it was possible a new facility would be built and two others refurbished. The change in tack is believed to have been prompted by the weight of opposition from the public and opposition councillors. He said:

"We want to go forward with three as they are and that will be the guidance given to the scrutiny committee. Some might be renovated and improved.

"Pete Lowe said all options were on the table. The view was if we had modern facilities they might become easier to manage and attract more customers. It was recommended by Sport England that we needed to be looking at two.

"Until you test something, you don't know. It is important to get different views and we welcome that - but they need to be cost-neutral services."

Almost 5,000 people signed a petition calling for a re-think on the leisure centre proposals. Councillor Ahmed said chiefs had been locked in talks with the opposition over the way forward. He said:

"Doing nothing is not an option and we believe that residents in Dudley deserve better. We have been having cross-party discussions about this and will be referring this to the scrutiny committee to consider all options.

“The scrutiny committee will be given a clear mandate that the Labour Group’s aspiration is to have a minimum of three leisure facilities in the areas where they are currently located."

The re-think on the leisure centres comes after Dudley Council saw its plan to increase council tax by five per cent defeated by the opposition.

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