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South Kesteven District Council's £850,000 grant brings tears of relief to Deepings Leisure Centre campaigners

Campaigners wept as South Kesteven District Council approved an £850,000 grant to reopen Deepings Leisure Centre yesterday (Thursday, January 11).

An extraordinary meeting of the authority’s full council considered the request by the Deepings Community Leisure Centre Community Interest Company (CIC).

The funds are for refurbishing and reopening Deepings Leisure Centre in Deeping St James, which has been closed since July 2021 due to safety concerns about a faulty roof. The Conservative-led district council had previously ditched plans for a £10.7m refurbishment of the centre because it said costs had gone up.

Campaigners hoping to reopen Deepings Leisure Centre celebrate following Thursday's meeting. | Image: Daniel Jaines
Campaigners hoping to reopen Deepings Leisure Centre celebrate following Thursday's meeting. | Image: Daniel Jaines

Cheers erupted on approving the grant; Coun Moran, who left during the debate, tearfully embraced fellow Deepings councillor Ashley Baxter.

She said: “I’m completely overwhelmed. We had so much against us and we’ve worked so hard. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we can see the way out.

“[The residents of the Deepings] will be overjoyed. They have been just so fantastic. Everything we’ve asked them to help us with, and the support we’ve asked for, not just when we’re making headlines but all the time.

“Every time I go to Tesco, there is somebody coming up to me and shaking my hand and saying keep going.”

Councillors had previously held a four-hour discussion on the topic at scrutiny before the debate yesterday.

Coun Baxter (Ind), who led the charge with a presentation on the history of the centre, said: “I’m just so pleased the council has done the right thing; it’s really shown the difference between administrations.

“It just shows the difference that has been made by voting for independents and other parties away from the way things have been run.

“It's a new positive-community focused way of working for everyone across South Kesteven.”

Fellow Deepings councillor Phil Dilks (Ind) said the decision would help with SKDC’s reputation, which he felt was damaged by the closure.

“Today it's a major milestone in getting swimming reinstated to 18,000 people in the Deepings and surrounding villages, and that is a big milestone. It's really important. I'm sure that they can make it work,” he said.

“We're not signing a cheque today; it's subject to a lot of caveats, but I'm certain that we can overcome those caveats and that we can get on and get it open.”

“It was a hugely emotional campaign; I had a gentleman ringing me last night asking me, please will you be supporting it, and this gentleman is disabled.

“I said to him, What have you been doing? What swimming have you done since? And he said ‘I don't go swimming anymore; I can't get to Bourne or Stamford; I'm disabled’.”

The council's approval is a pivotal step forward for the local community enterprise, which aims to raise more than £2 million for the renovation project.

While concerns were raised during the meeting regarding potential understated refit and running costs, a majority of councillors rallied behind the initiative, emphasizing the positive impact on the community.

Supporters of reopening the Deepings Leisure Centre say the closure had a notable impact on the local community, forcing residents to travel to neighbouring towns for leisure facilities.

Councillors were repeatedly told the facility would provide health benefits to thousands of residents.

Following approval, the business case will now go to the authority’s cabinet for final approval based on conditions.

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