Purley residents voiced frustration after Croydon Council announced a consultation period for the permanent closure of Purley Leisure Centre.
Residents in Purley fear that the closure of the leisure facility, which has a 25 metre pool and a small-sized gym, will deprive them of essential recreational activities.
The leisure centre closed at the start of the pandemic and a malfunction in its ventilation system rendered the building unfit to open in accordance with COVID measures.
St Aiden’s Catholic Primary School
Deputy head teacher of St Aiden’s Catholic Primary School, Theresa Paull, 40, said: “The children are really saddened by the closure because it was a real outing for them, and it’s their local pool.”
The council suggests that existing users of Purley leisure centre move to either Waddon Leisure Centre or newly-built New Addington Leisure Centre.
Ms Paull explained that neither centre was particularly convenient as the school lacks the funding for private transport and has to use public transport.
Waddon Leisure Centre is the closest replacement but requires a bus change and crossing the notoriously congested Fiveways junction which Ms Paull says can only be done piecemeal when escorting a large group of children.
She stressed that New Addington was an unrealistic replacement as it would take close to an hour each way.
Ms Paull is frustrated by the lack of weekly swimming lessons, with replacement facilities offering intensive courses of ten days that she feels will not adequately build up pupil confidence.
“It’s time we cannot afford to have out of school at the moment, particularly with the catch-up after COVID closures,” she added.
Purley Business Improvement District (BID) represents around 180 businesses in Purley, many of whom feel uneasy about the closure.
A business improvement district is a partnership of businesses established by a ballot and funded through an additional tax on constituent organisations.
Purley BID CEO Simon Cripps, 52, said: “Everyone we speak to is obviously extremely disappointed at the prospect of closure—the centre is a big part of Purley.”
He explained that dwell time was an important source of revenue for Purley businesses, with parents dropping children off at the pool for lessons and spending money in local businesses while they waited.
Businesses associated with Purley BID fear that the permanent loss of the leisure centre will deprive them of this key source of money.
Mr Cripps did express some sympathy with the council’s position, but felt that successive administrations had missed opportunities to invest in Purley.
“The question is, when are we going to get replacements?
“We have to have a replacement for this so when is that going to happen?” He added.
Purley Leisure Centre
Purley Leisure Centre, the oldest in the borough, opened in 1982 and according to a recent council report requires an additional investment of three million pounds.
The centre’s electrical and mechanical equipment are in need of replacing and a crumbling concrete water tank must also be repaired.
The same report mentions that the facility has run at yearly deficits of between £123,000-£186,000.
Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture and regeneration said: “It wouldn’t be the best use of public money to keep patching up an aging leisure facility, one that ultimately fails the people of Purley.”
Lewis said that just fixing the ventilation system, which the report costed at around £200,000, would be a temporary solution and do little to change the health of the facility.
“Pools lose money and gyms subsidise them.
“Purley is on a constrained site and has more pool space than gym space, it’s not sustainable,” He added.
The council identified Purley as an area for redevelopment including a new leisure centre in its 2018 Local Plan.
However no direct replacement for the centre exists yet.