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Sencio leisure centres in Sevenoaks and Edenbridge face uncertain future as council turns down emergency loan request

A company which runs four leisure facilities in Kent says the future of its sites in Sevenoaks and Edenbridge is looking uncertain as a district council turned down its appeal for an emergency loan.

Sencio which runs Sevenoaks Leisure Centre and Edenbridge Leisure Centre on behalf of the council has fallen into financial difficulty as a direct result of Covid-19.

Sevenoaks Leisure Centre. Picture By Helen Kitto
Sevenoaks Leisure Centre. Picture By Helen Kitto

Since closing its doors when lockdown was called, Sencio still had to pay monthly outgoings of around £160,000 to cover utility, staff and supplier costs across its sites with no income

The company, which also runs Lullingstone Golf Course near Orpington and White Oak Leisure Centre in Swanley, asked councillors to help its financial situation by requesting a £120,000 bail-out loan.

The money would have been used over the next three months to meet essential utility costs helping to mitigate current financial struggles.

But councillors on the people and places committee did not support Sencio's request during a meeting last Tuesday raising concern over its ability to repay the loan.

Sencio also put in a request for an extension to the current payment holiday on its existing loan repayments to the council by a further three months. This request was accepted.

Edenbridge Leisure Centre
Edenbridge Leisure Centre

A Sevenoaks council spokesman said: "Clearly this is a very difficult time for leisure operators nationally and presently there is no firm date as to when they will be able to open their doors again and what the leisure sector will look like when they can.

"We appreciate the difficulties experienced by Sencio as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and we are committed to ensuring the ongoing provision of leisure and wellbeing services across our District.

"Our People and Places Advisory Committee carefully considered the request for an additional £120,000 loan and the extra support we have provided up to now, including paying the annual £26,950 management fee up front and providing a six-month payment holiday on an existing £600,000 loan, equating to £44,000.

"The committee recommended that we continue to offer further financial assistance by deferring loan repayments, but not to support the request for a further loan due to the amount of money already committed to Sencio and the ability for the funding to be repaid as well as the financial challenges that coronavirus is likely to have on our own finances."

The report presented to the council during the meeting shows the leisure sector is suffering nationally and it is expected the impact will be felt in the medium to long term.

Leisure operators are facing particular challenges accessing government support during the pandemic and are largely ineligible for emergency response packages.

The final decision on Sencio’s request will be made by cabinet on July 9.

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