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U-turns over decision to keep Pond’s Forge centre closed

Written by on 26/09/2020

Sheffield Council has U-turned over its plan to keep the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre closed until April 2021.

Leaders initially decided to keep it closed, saying it would be too expensive on top of the £16.6 million given to reopen most other council-funded leisure venues across the city last month.

A ‘best case scenario’ date for reopening it was estimated to be April 2021.

But the decision was reassessed following a campaign by aquatics clubs based there who said they would not be able to survive until then without it.

The council’s cabinet has now unanimously approved plans to spend up to £1.6 million reopening the centre next month.

David Grey, chairman of Sheffield City Trust, which runs the venue, said: “We have £30 million a year, which is somewhere around £2.6 million of turnover a month, and the turnover has collapsed because we are unable to open our big money spinners, the arena and City Hall. They have been closed since March.

“In respect to the other facilities we have frozen all of our members’ direct debits which is absolutely the right thing to do.

“As we opened the facilities we have taken on very large costs as we believe, and I’m sure you believe, the health of people who come into our buildings is of paramount importance so we put a lot of money in to make sure they are safe.

“In essence we have all of the costs and a third of the revenue.

Ponds Forge

“The council has made the right decision. You can’t walk away from this because providing facilities for the people of Sheffield is of paramount importance and people’s health and wellbeing, although it’s costing money at the moment, if you stopped it would cost this city an awful lot more money in future times.”

A reopening date has not yet been set but council officers said the aim was for the second week in October.

Reacting to the news of reopening, Tom Owens, head coach at City of Sheffield Diving Club, said: “It feels like we now have three organisations all pushing in the same direction to get Ponds Forge reopened as quickly and safely as we can, and that will be to the benefit of so many people in the city.

“I think we are very proud of the way we have gone about this campaign, looking back at it now and feeling like we are actually going to reopen Ponds Forge.

“It’s not in exactly the way we asked for but the proposal and campaign acted as a catalyst to draw attention and focus to Ponds Forge. So I feel proud about that and humbled.

“The language in this report compared to the last report is so far removed, I think fair play to them. We needed to have a go at this but I was never sure what it would amount to and for it to amount to this is great. We’re delighted.”

The council’s cabinet is set to approve the plans for Ponds Forge at a meeting next week.