Wiltshire leisure centres could be handed to public

A public consultation will be held after councillors voted to hand over a number of leisure centres to the community.

Wiltshire Council approved the transfer of centres in Corsham, Downton, Pewsey, Tisbury, Westbury and Wootton Bassett on Tuesday.

They also voted to transfer Westbury and Bradford-on-Avon swimming pools.

Councillor Stuart Wheeler said he thought it was "highly unlikely" the facilities would close.

A council spokeswoman said a three-month consultation would start on Monday.

When Wiltshire Council was formed over a year ago, it inherited 23 leisure facilities from the five former councils.

A spokesman said the authority would have to invest more than £93m in the next 25 years to keep them at their current standards, excluding improvements.

Cricklade and Calne leisure centres are already run by the community.

The council also proposes new facilities in Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster and Amesbury/Durrington, and major improvements to centres in Chippenham, Devizes, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Salisbury and Tidworth.

A spokesperson from Save Our Sport, a group dedicated to saving the Lime Kiln leisure centre in Wootton Bassett, stated on the organisation's website before the meeting: "If the council cannot afford the facilities then what chance does an unfunded community have?"

The council said the sites would be refurbished and training offered before hand-overs.

Mr Wheeler said: "This really fits in with what the coalition government are talking about - the Big Society programme, people taking over their own facilities and running them in a way that suits their community."

'Early days'

He said he thought it was "highly unlikely" they would close if people were not willing to take them on.

"We've allowed a four-year period to negotiate with all the various communities in the facilities where we're looking to pass them over.

"I'm really optimistic the people of Wiltshire will want to take on the centres and we're going to work with people to get the best system.

"We want to hand over facilities that will keep running and keep supplying the leisure needs of the people.

"It's very early days."

The council said the plans would see at least £117m invested in the next 25 years.

A spokesman said proposals took "an 'invest to save' approach enabling the council to minimise its short, medium and long term risks".

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