Save our leisure centre

Coun Ken Ball and Ian Mallon at Coppull Leisure Centre

Coun Ken Ball and Ian Mallon at Coppull Leisure Centre

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ONE of the senior partners behind a popular Chorley leisure facility is set to hold a public meeting amid fears that it may have to close.

Brian Hudson, along with Ian Mallon, took over Coppull Leisure in 2010.

The pair have invested a lot of money into the initiative, which now boasts more than 700 people passing through their doors on a weekly basis.

Despite turning around the fortunes of the Springfield Road facility, Mr Hudson has revealed the centre faces a big dilemma.

He said: “We desperately need help, or the facility faces closure.

“When we took over two years ago, Ian and I came up with a plan to purchase the centre from Coppull Parish Council using an investment from me of £120,000 (£100,000 deposit and £20,000 legal fees) and mortgage funding to pay the remaining balance of £175,000.

“However, this plan came unstuck as no lending institution would mortgage the building largely due to the shocking historical performance, and also due to the single use covenant.

“For this reason, we agreed a variation on our purchase deal to split the payments into three tranches over three years. The second of those three payments was due in August 2012, and we have not been able to secure the necessary funding to meet this payment despite significantly turning the fortunes of the centre around.

“No mortgage company would do it so we are left with having to pay the parish council monthly rental, because we have not been able to make the second payment.”

Mr Hudson added: “Sadly, we are being hit by utility companies who continually increase charges beyond what could be considered reasonable and way above what had been planned for.

“Then, Chorley Council have hit us for a rates demand in excess of £20,000, which would effectively shut us down, despite us delivering a service that has not been provided there for 10 years.

“We are in a situation where we simply have to have help with this or we just cannot continue.

“We are certain the centre can stand on its own two feet, but it does require up-front funding and we both need help and some guidance too.

“It’s simply too difficult and time consuming to overcome so many obstacles, whils running our own families and full-time jobs outside of the centre.

It would be tragic to have come this far and for 700 people to lose their local centre, which has been given a new lease of life by us.”

Coun Bev Murray, who oversees the leisure provision at Chorley Council, said: “The centre is owned by the parish council, so it’s for Pulse Leisure to have discussions with them about how they can sort out this issue.

“The business rates aren’t set by the counci,l so we have no control over how much people need to pay.

“It’s very much a private matter between the two parties, and I would hope that they can come to some sort of agreement that allows the centre to remain open.”

Coun Ken Ball, who sits on Coppull Parish Council and is also a borough councillor for the area, said: “I spoke to Ian Mallon two or three weeks ago and he seemed so upbeat.

“So this news comes as a real disappointment for me.

“We know they were struggling to get a mortgage and they were due to make their second payment to the parish council in July .

“They did not come up with that so they paid us a rental fee and their next big payment is due in February.

“I am absolutely gobsmacked by this.

“With regards to the rates that they are paying to Chorley Council, they could have been considered for rate relief and the forms were sent out to them I think.”

Mr Hudson is planning to hold a public meeting to try to encourage ideas to come forward on how to raise money.

If you can help, send an email to guardian.newsdesk@lep.co.uk and we will pass on information to Brian or Ian.