Leisure centre could be handed over to schools trust by council

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: Archant

A new operator is being sought for Sawtry’s One Leisure centre, with Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) seeking to hand the building over to Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) which runs the school where the facility is based.

CMAT has already started the process of finding a third party provider which will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the centre at Sawtry Village Academy.

Sawtry is part of the One Leisure set up under which HDC also provides leisure centres in Huntingdon, St Neots, St Ives and Ramsey, which have historic links to adjacent schools.

The Sawtry centre, originally part of the school, provides a range of activities including swimming, fitness and sport.

HDC has vowed that the move will not mean any changes to the way users access services at the centre in future.

A spokesman for the council said: "Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust have been working closely to explore different ways of managing the One Leisure facility in Sawtry that would benefit the school, students and community in the future.

"Over the coming months a firm proposal will be agreed that will see the transfer of management from HDC to CMAT and an alternative provider."

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The spokesman said: "The change in operational management will not result in any alterations in the way the local community access the facilities.

"CMAT has started the process to identify a suitable provider and we look forward to hearing their plans to take forward the facility for everyone in Sawtry."

Further details on how the change will affect the future of the centre, such as ownership of the building and future pricing policies, remain unclear.

Sawtry has an annual deficit of around £70,000 despite measures taken by the district council.

The district council has been investing heavily in facilities at its centres with a view to attracting more customers and increasing its income to offset rises in Council Tax.

It has just announced a £450,000 scheme for a fitness centre at One Leisure's outdoor centre in St Ives. The new fitness centre will also be run by a third party operator, Training Shed.

St Ives' outdoor centre has a £70,000 deficit and the council expects the fitness centre will bring in more users than the squash courts where the number of players has dwindled over the years.

But the move means the closure of the four squash courts at the centre, the last provided there by the council, angering players who will now have to find facilities elsewhere.

The centre would originally have been owned by Cambridgeshire County Council as part of its school structure and the district council later took responsibility for operating the leisure facility.

Sawtry has an annual deficit of around £70,000 despite measures taken by the district council.