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Hope for Birmingham's beleaguered Leisure Centres, amidst recent Threat of Closures

Press Release   •   Jun 06, 2013 11:33 BST

Birmingham City Council announces plans to sell off and close Leisure Centres across the City, but Kingsbridge Community Sports proposes a more amenable solution. Whilst sympathetic to the need for reductions in Council spending, Kingsbridge Director Roger Lynch believes that the Council has been "too hasty to speak of selling off facilities, when alternative solutions could be considered."

Kingsbridge Community Sports is a Community Interest Company and Social Enterprise which was formed in 2010 in response to concerns from many sports and community groups in the South Birmingham area. The issue was the poor and worsening condition of local sports facilities in the area, which had caused many sports clubs to fold, or relocate to other parts of the City. The Kingsbridge vision is for the local community to be given the opportunity to refurbish and maintain ailing sports facilities, such as Holders Lane in Moseley, in partnership with the Council. This model depends on a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) which transfers the lease for the site to a Community Interest Company such as Kingsbridge Community Sports. The Community Organisation is then empowered to enhance the facilities in line with local need, and to deliver the sports facilities with and for the community. The funding for such a project would be raised through a combination of grants from a number of National Funding Bodies, some private investment and a a small amount of low-interest loans.

Kingsbridge is well aware of the financial pressures on the Council, as last year it was discovered that  the Council had discussed the possibility of selling-off the Holders Lane site. Fortunately that idea appears to have been curtailed thanks to Kingsbridge, local residents groups and the newly formed 'Friends of the Fields' group who were keen to ensure that the facilities were kept for the benefit of the local community.

The problem, however, is now seen to be far wider, with Council Leader Sir Albert Bore  announcing on BBC Local News at 10 on Wedneesday night that more Leisure Centres are likely to be sold or closed. The main issue for groups like Kingsbridge is that if the Council goes ahead with these plans,although some areas of Birmingham may end up with a good standard of privately owned sports facilities, other wards will find themselves with little or no facilities at all. (It is noted that Harborne Swimming Pool was one of the first Sports Centres in Birmingham to be sold off into private ownership, whilst sites such as the Birmingham Sports Centre in Highgate and Sparkill Swimming Pool (pictured) have been closed in recent years.) 

More affluent places such as Harborne will become prime targets for external investment, but some of the more deprived neighbourhoods are unlikely to attract investment from corporate leisure businesses. "What keeps me awake at night, is the thought that soon, in some sectors of our City people will be raising their kids in a neighbourhood where there are no leisure facilities at all," says Roger Lynch, who also works in Community Regeneration for the Balsall Heath Forum. Roger, who founded Real Riverside Football Club in 2003 goes on to say, "I've seen the positive impact of community grass-roots sport, in terms of health outcomes, social cohesion and community spirit- without it our communities will suffer."

Kingsbridge and its partners remain committed the the vision of community led sports and community facilities, and hope that by working alongside the Council to be able to provide the local community with the sports facilities it needs in the near future.

Kingsbridge Project is a community based consortium, aiming to develop a vibrant and exciting new venue in South Birmingham. Our aim is to enhance the provision of sport and leisure activities for the benefit of a wide variety of local user groups, in an area where facilities are currently sorely lacking.

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