1,000 letter plea to save Underwood sports centre given to Newport council
1:50pm Tuesday 12th February 2013 in Gwent news
MORE than 1,000 letters protesting against the planned closure of a Newport leisure centre were delivered to the council yesterday.
The Underwood sports facility is one of a number of venues across the city which could be axed as Newport council attempts to save around £7 million.
A consultation exercise into the proposals, which could also see care homes close and music service funding scrapped, is due to finish on Wednesday.
Leighton Dobbs, who lives near Underwood leisure centre and has played five-aside football there for more than three decades, delivered the letters, as well as a 240-signature petition to the civic centre last night.
In an open letter Mr Dobbs wrote that after hearing the community could lose its leisure centre at the end of March, a committee of 30 volunteers banded together and formed a business plan to run the centre.
He called for the council to allow the volunteers “a transition period” in which they could take over responsibility for running the building.
Mr Dobbs told the Argus: “We want a leniency period for putting it all in place over six to nine months. We have only had a few weeks to put this business plan together.
“There is nothing else here, and the leisure centre has one of the best five-aside halls, people come from Malpas and Caldicot to use it.
“The big problem has been that it was never promoted, the council closed the bar and the opening hours were reduced,” he said.
“It could be a little gold mine.” Llanwern councillor Martyn Kellaway said that to keep the centre shut would cost around £30,000.
“You still have to pay rates and security,” he said.
“We are saying, give us a transition period, turn it into a trust and save the council money. It wouldn’t cost the council anything then. You would be looking at volunteers using it more as a community hub.”
He said the plan’s financial forecasts would have the centre breaking even by the second year.