Calls for public inquiry with three Swindon leisure centres closed

Pictures from Save Oasis Swindon, taken in 2021, show the swimming area of the closed Oasis Leisure Centre
Pictures from Save Oasis Swindon, taken in 2021, show the swimming area of the closed Oasis Leisure Centre

There have been calls for a public inquiry into the closure of leisure centres across Swindon, including the Oasis.

In a poll run by campaign group Save Oasis Swindon on X, formerly Twitter, it was asked: "Should there be a fresh public inquiry into the closure and outsourcing of Swindon's Leisure centres?"

Of the 233 responses, 78 per cent were in favour of a new inquiry with 22 per cent against.

It comes as currently three leisure centres across the borough are closed, of which all are, or have been, operated by specialist leisure operator GLL, a charitable social enterprise which trades as Better.

In 2014, the Oasis Centre in North Star was let on a long lease by the borough council to property developer Seven Capital. That company appointed GLL to run the centre, which it did until the start of the October lockdown in 2020.

Then GLL said it could no longer make enough money running the centre and announced it would not open after the lockdown. The centre has been closed since.

Also, in 2014 the council agreed to give the contract to run six other leisure centres in the borough to GLL.

Two of those are now closed: The Victorian Health Hydro in Milton Road has been closed since April to allow a major £6.5m, 18-month-long refurbishment.

The Link Centre has been closed for two weeks since its plan room was flooded when Swindon suffered a torrential downpour.  No date has been given for any re-opening.

Comments in response to the poll indicated some support for bringing the centres back into public operation.

Dean Kershaw-Evans wrote: ”SBC should retake the leisure outlets back like the good old days.”

Meanwhile the account for Cybersounds Entertainments said: “The council should have never sold the leisure off. Look at what were left with: Oasis – closed, Link - closed for the foreseeable, Hydro - closed - small pool permanently closed.

“Bring them back into public ownership.”

Another poster Clegg Bamber wrote: “I'm not against the idea per se, but what would it achieve and is the cost/benefit worth it?

“We all have opinions on what should/shouldn't have happened - but we are where we are. The main thing now is to get leisure facilities open for public benefit.”

Issues with council-owned centres run by the private sector are not confined to Swindon.

Just last week the GL1 leisure centre and Oxstalls in Gloucester closed, with the loss of 150 jobs, when operator charitable trust Aspire went into liquidation.