Published: 06:00, 17 July 2020
| Updated: 09:44, 17 July 2020
A council has voted to close a leisure centre for a year of renovation work.
The Stour Centre in Ashford will undergo a £6.5 million refurbishment programme, which will see a climbing wall and new pool features installed.
Gym facilities will also be extended, and changing rooms revamped during the one-year scheme.
The controversial decision to close the site replaces an alternative option, which Ashford Borough Council (ABC) says would have extended the work timeline by nine months but would have allowed continued public use of the facilities.
Another main source of annoyance was the £17 million remodelling work which was completed only 13 years ago.
After being discussed behind closed doors due to business-sensitive information, the vote to close the centre for a year was approved by 31 for, seven against and two abstentions.
This decision comes despite a strong effort by the public, who appealed for the longer-term renovation programme to take place rather than a shorter but full closure.
A petition opposing the full shutdown was organised by Unison, and garnered more than 1,500 signatures in only a few days.
The petition was handed to ABC yesterday afternoon – hours before last night's meeting, during which the proposal was discussed and voted on.
Despite the popularity of the petition, councillors voted for the full closure, which will run until mid-2021.
Before the meeting, Unison's south east regional organiser Mark Hammond said: “We are calling on the council to keep the Stour Centre open, save more than 100 jobs and let dedicated staff carry on providing a highly valued service to the people of Ashford.
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer said recently that ‘no avoidable redundancies are acceptable’.
"These redundancies are completely avoidable and the council should lead by example and support people in employment instead of forcing them out because it is convenient.”