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Leisure centre shuts but council considers options for reopening

A popular sport and leisure club closed this week after the company that runs it went into administration.

More than 20 people work at Fleet Leisure and Sports Club in Nelson Road Northfleet, which closed on Monday.

Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet
Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet

Fleet Leisure Ltd went into administration in April with FRP Advisory appointed as administrator, after a recent “deterioration in trading conditions”.

A spokesman for the council, which owns the land and buildings, said: “The council will be examining the options for re-opening Fleet Leisure as soon as possible as it recognises the importance of sporting facilities such as this to the community.”

The site has been a sports facility for 81 years and often held Sunday night variety shows, annual bonfire and firework nights as well as offering somewhere to practice for football, cricket, hockey, bowls, table tennis, judo, and badminton players.

Members paid £30 a year which gave access to the club and benefits such as club bar prices, darts, pool, snooker, bingo, poker and discounts on hiring facilities.

A hall could be hired out for weddings, birthdays, wakes and other events.

Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet
Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet

Alan Fothergill has been a member for more than 40 years. He said: “There are lots of happy memories for a lot of people. It’s very much worth saving as it is a valuable community asset which needs restoring to its former glory once again.

"The football season is just starting and Hollisters FC have played their home matches at the ground for 45 years. Ebbsfleet Utd FC youth section rely on the ground heavily for their various teams.

“The other week saw a successful fundraising fete for the local pre-school club and last week there’s been a soccer school organised by Ebbsfleet Utd FC which attracted more than 30 youngsters.

"Cecil Road school has used the facilities for many years for their sports days.”

The business continued to trade while it was up for sale, though plans by Ebbsfleet Football Club to buy it fell through in July.

Ebbsfleet United vice chairman Peter Varney said: “The Fleet Leisure pitches require major renovation work, levelling and a new irrigation and drainage system and the pitches would not be back in full use until September 2014 at the earliest.

“The five-a-side astroturf pitches have broken down also. The fabric of the buildings at Fleet Leisure is very poor and all areas require extensive refurbishment including a complete new roof on the main building.

“We also wanted to install a full-size artificial pitch and it was clear there would be a lot of local opposition to that proposal.”

In 2005, former owner Kimberley-Clark sold the site, which was then Beauwater Leisure, to Gravesham council while Fleet Leisure took on the lease.

The 11-acre site includes a bar, function hall, bowls green, four grass football pitches and changing rooms.

This week, Gravesham council chief executive David Hughes said: "The administrators have indicated that they intend to informally surrender the lease on September 5. This follows a number of expressions of interest to take over the lease being referred to us by the administrators, none of which were acceptable as they did not offer a sustainable long term solution.

"The leader has authorised officers to pursue an interim solution that will allow the facilities to be re-opened as quickly as possible, although there will undoubtedly be a period of closure as an inspection has revealed the site is in poor condition and catering and bar equipment has been removed which will need to be replaced before the facilities can be properly operated.

"We are confident an interim arrangement is possible and this will enable a long term sustainable solution to be pursued.

"Whilst the failure of Fleet Leisure Ltd is to be regretted, it does provide an opportunity to seek a better arrangement that will see the facilities improved and properly maintained which, from our inspection, has not been the case for a substantial period of time."

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