LEISURE: A shadow of old centre

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It comes as no surprise that many of your readers are up in arms about the new prices for leisure centres in Northumberland, (News Post Leader, November 3).

These substantial increases are to be introduced less than a year after the opening of Ashington Leisure Centre.

Sadly, I believe this venue has already become a monument to wrong-headed planning and inappropriate public provision.

The old leisure centre that incorporated ‘The Tute’ was a real community hub, with indoor and outdoor bowling greens, four squash courts, six snooker tables, a public bar, two bar lounges, an impressive function suite for all sorts of gatherings, designated rooms for weight-lifting, boxing and judo, and indoor and outdoor play areas.

The new leisure centre offers only a shadow of the former provision and is woefully lacking in a community ethos and spirit.

Sports provision is less than comprehensive and lacks essential variety in a number of key areas.

The social side hardly exists at all.

There is no public bar or lounge, nowhere to meet friends and family before or after sporting activity.

The little café on the ground floor is far too small and is situated next to and under a massive children’s play area, which extends upwards almost to the top of the building.

The public library is next to the children’s play area and it is impossible to read a book in peace.

The design of the building, with its extensive use of huge glass panels, means that many areas during over half the year are uncomfortably hot and stuffy.

This is particularly bad in the library, which is intolerably hot and noisy during the summer months.

It is also worth noting that during the autumn half-term holiday programme, this lovely new leisure centre failed to offer a single event or activity.

All sorts of great stuff for kids was going on in Blyth, Cramlington, Ponteland and Newbiggin, but the only provision in Ashington was an excellent Active Football Camp at the brilliant Ashington Welfare Centre.

So readers in Ashington have every right to complain about substantial price increases.

In my view these are difficult to justify under these circumstances of very limited, and often inadequate, provision.

A gleaming and monumentally impressive building actually says nothing about what goes on, or does not go on, inside it.

TM Patterson

Ashington