Stevenage sports clubs to be left homeless by leisure centre closure

John Henry Newman Leisure Centre in Stevenage is closing to the public next week

John Henry Newman Leisure Centre in Stevenage is closing to the public next week - Credit: Archant

SPORTS clubs will be left homeless when a school leisure centre closes to the public next week.

Members of the Full Metal Roller Derby Stevenage league training at John Henry Newman Leisure Centre

Members of the Full Metal Roller Derby Stevenage league training at John Henry Newman Leisure Centre, which is closing to the public. Picture by Exumbra Photography - Credit: © Exumbra Photography 2012

Groups who use the John Henry Newman Leisure Centre in Stevenage have told the Comet they have been unable to find alternative venues as they prepare for the facility’s closure to the public next Friday, August 16.

The leisure centre, based at The John Henry Newman School in Hitchin Road, will no longer be open to the public on evenings during the week or at the weekend once the secondary school takes over the running of the facility from Stevenage Leisure Ltd.

Stevenage resident Alan Cherry said he has been using the leisure centre, which has two indoor sports hall as well as two outdoor pitches, for more than 20 years as a member of the SFB Badminton Club.

The group is mainly made up of members aged around 60, and meets at the leisure centre every Thursday evening.

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“The closure will have a major effect on our badminton club,” said Mr Cherry, who said the club has yet to find a suitable venue to relocate to.

“The fact that no discussion was entered into is a major concern on our part – after 20 years we received less than a month’s notice. We have had no help whatsoever in finding an alternative venue, nor to my knowledge, have any of the other users.

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“I believe that cost may be the underlying factor in this decision. But I ask does everything have to make a profit in cash terms? What price can be put on the pursuit of healthy activities which we are all urged to take part in, especially in the aftermath of the London 2012 Olympic Games? What about our Olympic legacy?”

The leisure centre, which has facilities for activities including football, basketball and netball, was also used by members of a Stevenage roller derby league – a contact sport on roller skates.

Steph Byrne, a founding member of the Full Metal Roller Derby league, said: “Since this announcement we have now been left homeless for our advanced training sessions. John Henry Newman has been fantastic and incredibly supportive of the league and we are sad to have to say goodbye to the venue and to the support staff. This is especially heartbreaking as we now have nowhere to train our recent new recruits for advanced sessions.

“We are currently reviewing all possible options for a new venue, including schools and private sports halls, but we are so far having no luck.”

Last week Stevenage Leisure Ltd told the Comet it would be trying to relocate users after agreeing for John Henry Newman to take over the centre – which was not making any profit.

A spokesman for John Henry Newman said: “The school is heavily over-subscribed and we are desperate for the extra space. We also want to modernise and redevelop the site. The school is keen to work with the community in the future but we do need to upgrade the facilities first.”

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