A call has gone out for help to save a Wirral leisure centre deemed “one of the few things the community has got left.”
A fundraiser has been set up by Woodchurch Wellbeing, a community group looking to take over Woodchurch Leisure Centre. Wirral Council closed the site in 2022 following massive budget cuts as it heavily subsidised keeping it open.
The leisure centre was closed alongside nine libraries, five public toilets, and two golf courses. Some of these have moved through a process where community groups or companies take over running them and Woodchurch Wellbeing hopes to do the same.
The group hopes to first get the leisure centre’s two pools back up and running and allow people back into the building’s theatre. Beyond this, there are plans to bring in a charity shop, host community groups, work spaces, as well as better signpost people to support services.
If it does not reopen, Wirral Council will demolish it to make way for sports pitches but the leisure centre has been given a lifeline if Woodchurch Wellbeing can raise enough money by the end of October.
Wirral Council has agreed to transfer the leisure centre in principle if two conditions are met by 27 October. This includes a revised business plan and additional funding to match the council’s contribution of £330k which would ensure the long-term viability of the takeover.
A draft heads of terms had now been written up according to the group with money being the deciding factor.
Woodchurch Wellbeing is emailing businesses, other community groups, and schools across Wirral to try and get funding. It is also hosting community fundraisers from a black tie ball at the Leasowe Castle Hotel on 14 October to a pub fundraiser on 15 October in Woodchurch.
Lynne Howe, one of the group’s directors said the crowdfunder is “absolutely crucial,” adding: “We would rather 10,000 people donate £1 than 100 people donate £10.
“No matter how small the donation is, it isn’t the important thing. We have still got a big task ahead of us. Everyone just needs to get behind it because we have been given this deadline. It doesn’t matter how big or small, everybody can get involved.”
The group now has less than a month to raise the money and the fundraiser is yet to reach even 1% of its target. Despite this, Lynne said, “It’s all moving quite well. It’s all sounding positive but the deadline is adding a bit of pressure. We remain optimistic but nothing is signed and nothing is delivered yet.”
The Woodchurch Estate has seen a number of services cut from its library to things to do for teenagers. If the centre closed for good, Ms Howe said there would be “the ongoing impact of a lack of access to services, impact on the youth, and the impact on community self esteem and morale thinking everything is being taken away and nothing is coming back.
“It is very much that sense that Woodchurch is continually minimised and the only thing that Woodchurch is talked about is gangs and crime.”
However, Ms Howe said reopening the leisure centre could be “a really positive opportunity” with a focus on the pool because “once it’s gone I can guarantee that no one is going to have any money to build another one.”
She added, “It certainly is one of the few things the community has got left. We have got the church and the Carrbridge (centre) and we have got the football pitches going in which is positive but there is nothing around it.
“The leisure centre is certainly crucial not just from the point of view for the local community but also the wider community
“It’s about what it will bring back. The Woodchurch has lost so much but we have got play groups, theatre groups, Wirral swimming groups as well as mental health groups interested.
“There’s not many pools that have disabled access so we have got disabled groups saying this is great if we can access the pool. It’s about bringing all of that back to the estate but also providing that to the wider community.”
“It’s literally the centre of the Wirral, that is what the Woodchurch would give, even for Heswall, it would be easier to get to.”
A link to the crowdfunder can be found here