Home   Gravesend   News   Article

Campaign to save Meopham Leisure Centre near Gravesend nears crucial deadline

Time is running out for campaigners to raise the cash they hope will help in their battle to save a leisure centre.

The lease on Meopham Leisure Centre near Gravesend draws to a close on Friday, July 29 and managers have warned it might not be possible to extend it.

A protest was held on Monday. Photo: Anna Roberts
A protest was held on Monday. Photo: Anna Roberts

Supporters are trying to raise £30,000 to keep the centre open for a further six months to give those involved a chance to negotiate a long-term arrangement.

The donation page has nearly reached £10,000 in just a few days, with more than £5,000 being pledged offline.

But those fighting to save it say they need to hit that £30,000 target today.

Campaigner Christopher Morris said: "The deadline driven by Serco to source £30,000 is today."

The facility is based at Meopham Secondary School and operated by The Swale Academies Trust (SAT).

Campaigners made their message clear. Photo: Anna Roberts
Campaigners made their message clear. Photo: Anna Roberts

The day-to-day running is managed by Meopham Sport and Leisure Association, with Serco Leisure Operating listed as the managing agent on the centre website.

SAT says it is engaged in "protracted discussions" but its priority is the education of children and not the subsidisation of third party organisations.

The closure announcement, which was made on Friday, has been met with anger and disapproval by villagers and members.

Hundreds of concerned residents, gym users and school children held a protest outside the leisure centre on Monday.

Speaking about Monday's protest, gym member Anna Roberts said: "We want to highlight all the activities that the centre holds for the children in the local area.

Meopham Leisure Centre could close
Meopham Leisure Centre could close

"We want to highlight the work it does with the Helen Allison school [for children with autism] and the fact it caters for families, single parents, children, teenagers and everyone in between."

Many say the centre not only offers physical fitness benefits, but is vital for people's mental health too.

Peter Scutts – who started the Elliott Holmes Memorial Fund with his partner to provide funding for therapy for vulnerable young people – said: "I think they should be considering the impact in the mental health and wellbeing of residents in Meopham. I do not know if it has been considered."

Meopham Parish Council has also expressed its "extreme concern" over the potential closure and has submitted an official request to Gravesham council for the centre to be recognised as an asset of community value.

This listing would enable a six-month moratorium period to be triggered if the Trust gave notification of its intent to sell the building on the open market or issue a new long-term lease.

Many people turned out for Monday's protest at Meopham Leisure Centre. Photo: Anna Roberts
Many people turned out for Monday's protest at Meopham Leisure Centre. Photo: Anna Roberts

It is hoped this will give local groups the opportunity to develop their own bid to purchase the building.

It is understood SAT is being advised by the government to charge the full commercial rate rather than the current peppercorn rate.

A trust spokesman said earlier this week: "Swale Academies Trust recognises the value placed by residents of Meopham in the village sports centre. SAT has engaged in protracted discussions with MSLA over the renewal of their lease agreement.

"However, whilst we are keen to see this renewal occur we are not in a position to meet MSLA’s requests for a subsidy to help them ensure a financially sustainable business model.

"Funding is given by the DfE to SAT for the purposes of educating children, not to sustain third party organisations.

"In order that the village sports centre may remain open we would be happy to support MSLA in approaching other funding sources who may be able to assist in ensuring that their funding model is sustainable."

If you wish to donate, click here.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More