Lewisham Council does not plan to reopen the Bridge Leisure Centre in Lower Sydenham once Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
It comes after a warning from the mayor of Lewisham in October that the cost of making the centre Covid-secure might be too great for the council to justify.
According to a report on leisure facilities going to mayor and cabinet next week (January 13), the Bridge was operating at a deficit of more than £400,000 for a long time before the pandemic.
“Through the term of the Fusion Lifestyle leisure contract the site required an annual subsidy of nearly £600,000 per annum with significant investment required in the building’s infrastructure.
“It is acknowledged that an element of the financial losses relate to the deterioration in the quality of the building and service standards in recent years but it is also clear that the site has been running at losses of over £400,000 for many years,” it states.
The council estimates that to reopen the site in 2021, the Bridge would need an annual subsidy of around £750,000 in revenue, around £450,000 for essential works, with a further £600,000 for works in the first few years of reopening.
The Bridge, located in Bellingham ward, has a 25 metre pool, a teaching pool, a gym, three studios, a three-court sports hall, four squash courts, saunas, two outdoor football pitches/cricket pitch and a small multi-use games area.
When leisure centres reopen, the loss of facilities is not expected to be fully met elsewhere in the borough due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But the council claims that after the restrictions are lifted demand could be met.
“Following analysis of the pre-Covid use of the Bridge and the alternative available provision in the vicinity it has been assessed that the vast majority of the demand generated by only closure of the site could be met by existing facilities – particularly when Covid restrictions are eventually lifted.
“The only area where there is a potential shortfall in alternatives is in the provision of sports hall facilities and it is important that officers work closely with schools and other institutions to ensure greater community access to existing infrastructure,” according to the report
The council intends to reopen the Indoor Bowls Centre beside the Bridge, as it expects the cost of doing so would be low.
A Lewisham council spokesperson said: “The national lockdown means that all leisure centres across London continue to be closed.
“Ongoing Coronavirus restrictions, have made customers wary to return to leisure centres and income across the leisure sector has been severely affected.
“Working closely with our leisure partner, GLL a phased reopening of leisure centres will continue when the Government determines it is safe to do so.
“It is anticipated Wavelengths, Forest Hill Pools, Glassmill, Ladywell Arena, Downham Health and Leisure as well as Bellingham Leisure Centre will be ready to open shortly after restrictions are eased.
“Due to financial pressures The Bridge Leisure Centre will not reopen in the short term.
“The Bridge lost nearly £600,000 last year, and the council is unable to continue funding the centre at this level.
“There are inherent problems with The Bridge due to the age and design of the building which will always present difficulties in the customer experience and the quality of services.
“Originally a private Sports and Social Club, its layout was not designed to be a public leisure centre .
“A recent condition survey has identified significant works are required to return The Bridge to acceptable standard of provision with further investment required for Covid-secure standards.
“These works are substantial and it is estimated that in the region of £450,000 in capital costs plus a further £600,000 is required over few years to maintain safe operations.
“A full review of leisure services in the Bellingham area will be considered as part of the council’s new Physical Activity Strategy to be shared for public consultation shortly.
“Detailed recommendations on the next steps for The Bridge are expected to be considered by the Council by autumn 2021.”