CAMPAIGNERS against the closure of a leisure centre believe the facility could be closed within 60 days.
The Save Plas Madoc Leisure Centre Campaign has accused Wrexham Council of “railroading the closure plans through” and expressed its anger at only being given until April 1 to find a community social enterprise group to take over the running and costs of the facility.
The comments come after the council made public its recommendations for the future of the county’s leisure centres, including closing both Plas Madoc and Waterworld with a view to rebuilding the latter.
Under the leisure review proposals, if a community group cannot take over Plas Madoc by April 30, the report says the authority should “close, decommission and demolish” it.
Campaigner Alison Roberts believes the timescale given by the council to find an alternative community group to take on Plas Madoc “makes it impossible” to keep it open.
“We have attempted to engage with the council by requesting meetings but they have been rejected,” she said. “We have tried to get an independent surveyor into Plas Madoc to assess the true costs of the centre. Again that has not been forthcoming.
“This proposal only came to light from a scrutiny committee meeting in November. It went out to consultation in December and January and now they’re talking of closing it in the next financial year.
“The idea of the community running the centre would have more merit if the council had involved the community in this consultation. Instead it has disregarded the community’s views completely and appears willing to ride roughshod over our wishes. Let’s be clear – we do not believe the council is serious in wanting the community to successfully run Plas Madoc. The timescale makes it all but impossible to organise an orderly and effective transfer.
“There are huge issues to discuss in terms of organising financing, employment rights, a business plan and other major matters that would take many months to organise for a large company, let alone a community that would need to set up a social enterprise from scratch.”
Mrs Roberts slammed councillors for not realising the extent of “huge uncosted benefits” to the community.
“Cllr David Griffiths described leisure as a discretionary service but it has huge uncosted benefits for the community in terms of health and well-being”, she added.
“We could name some other council costs that are also discretionary that this council is not cutting – why? It appears we have council leaders who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. The council’s attitude throughout has been to railroad this closure plan through with the minimum of time to assess the options.
“The legacy of such a blinkered approach, if we allow them to succeed, will be hugely damaging for the surrounding area.”
Plaid Cymru member for Clwyd South Cllr Mabon ap Gwynfor questioned whether the council believed a community group could realistically find the sum needed to keep the centre open.
“As someone who was involved in setting up a community venture from scratch, I know from experience how long it takes,” he said. “There’s also the little matter of finding a way to bridge the current £500,000 annual deficit. Yes, there may be grants available but grants are dependent on business plans. They will not be available in 60 days.
“When the council was withdrawing funding from The Venture and Caia Park Partnership, it did so over a number of years with a gradual taper. Why isn’t this being proposed for Plas Madoc?”
A Wrexham Council spokesman said: “It is important to stress no decision has been made regarding the future of Plas Madoc and other leisure provision provided by the council. A of number options will be discussed by the executive board on Tuesday. If the board does go with the option to close Plas Madoc, due processes will need to be followed and this will go beyond April 1.”