Bookings ‘guaranteed’ when leisure centres management goes private

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New Forest leisure centres
Applemore leisure centre off Claypits Lane in Hythe (Photo: Google)

REASSURANCES have been offered to a dance school owner who fears for the future of her business when the management of New Forest District Council leisure centres are taken over by a private company.

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The council is asking for bids from private organisations to manage its five centres at Applemore, Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood and Totton.

It is currently seeking “expressions of interest” to be submitted by the end of the year with a decision in 2020.

Speaking at a meeting of Hythe and Dibden Parish Council, Lindsey Shelley said: “I have run my dance school in Applemore for over 25 years and have between 200 and 250 pupils at any one time.

“We run classes five days a week. I am able to deliver classes of a high quality at affordable prices due to my school being run inside a council building.”

She added: “Should the leisure centres be privatised, the studio hire will inevitably increase and there is a high possibility the new providers will have their own plans for the current studio space.”

She told members she was asking the district council to include in the new provider’s contract that it would honour bookings for 12 months to allow time to negotiate or make alternative arrangements.

She said: “If this is not done, our businesses are likely to collapse or close. I’m not asking for the council to reverse their decision – just for a short period of security.”

Addressing the concerns, NFDC’s cabinet member for leisure and wellbeing, Cllr Mark Steele, told the A&T: “In the event of us entering into an agreement with a third party as a result of this review, it will be a contractual requirement for the operator to honour the existing club’s bookings.

“The earliest date of any agreement will be 1st January 2021 and therefore these bookings will be honoured until 1st January 2022, which is 24 months from now.”

He added the driving motivation and aim of the changes was to ensure that “the important community facilities” were sustainable for the next 10 years.

Although the centres make an operational surplus towards the maintenance budget for the five centres, it does not cover the total cost, he said.

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