‘There’s no other place I can call second home’: Purley pool worker tells of woe at planned leisure centre closure

Pic: Save Purley Pool via Facebook

For Smita Sukumar, who has worked at Purley Leisure Centre since 2015, the council’s plans to close it down are devastating.

“There’s no other place I can call second home than this amazing place,” she said.

Sukumar, who worked as a recreational assistant at the leisure centre, is helping campaign to keep it open.

The leisure centre closed the start of the pandemic after a malfunction in its ventilation system, which rendered the building unfit to open in accordance with Covid measures, and hasn’t reopened ever since. Locals were hopeful it would reopen but due to the poor infrastructure of the building and lack of funds for maintenance, the council announced it was consulting with locals on plans to close it permanently.

They say the pool, which opened in 1982 and is the oldest in the borough, requires an additional investment of £3m.

Sukumar, a local who lives three metres away from the centre and has been a hardcore Purleyite for the past 15 years spoke to ELL about the importance of the leisure centre to the community and the way it has improved her life.

She said: “I joined the centre as a member and started working there soon after. There’s no other place I can call second home than this amazing place.”

“We have members who have been using the centre since the time it started and I cannot emphasise how much it benefitted their wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional and social.”

“Many of them would be there at 6.30am before we even open doors. It was like family. It’s the smallest place I ever worked, but the best place I did in all these years.”

“The centre is our strongest site till date. But like every building, it needs maintenance which was never done. It’s constantly been a tug of war rope for the political parties. High time it stays for the community.”

Croydon council say that electrical and mechanical equipment are in need of replacement, while the crumbling concrete water tank is in need of repair.

They also say that the facility has run at yearly deficits of between £123,000-£186,000 pounds.

Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture and regeneration said: “It wouldn’t be the best use of public money to keep patching up an aging leisure facility, one that ultimately fails the people of Purley. Pools lose money and gyms subsidise them.”

He added: “Purley is on a constrained site and has more pool space than gym space, it’s not sustainable.”

Sukumar added: “The ones who are most at loss is this disabled charity called Enterprise Swimming for the disabled. Even to this day they have found no suitable pool. We celebrated the clubs 60th Birthday in 2019.”

ELL was unable to get through to Enterprise Swimming Charity as it has been permanently closed after the closure of Purley Leisure Centre.

Frustrated by the council’s decision about the planned closure of the leisure centre, Sukumar said: “The council has estimated £3m to repair works which is a concocted amount. Where is the breakup?”

Sukumar also told ELL that a lot of schools have been affected by the closure.

“Purley Leisure Centre is so accessible by public transport. I work at Christchurch school close by right now. The staff and the children often tell me how much they hate going to Thomas More as it takes a lot of our learning time.”

“The children even campaigned to re-open Purley Leisure Centre which went to deaf ears.” she added.

St Aiden’s Catholic Primary School also campaigned against the closure of the leisure centre.

Croydon Council suggested that school members of Purley Leisure Centre could move to either Waddon Leisure Centre or the newly built New Addington Leisure Centre, but they say both represent longer journeys to get there.

St Aiden’s Catholic Primary School stated that they already lack the funding for private transport and have to use public transport as a result.

There is a survey which is active until November 23 for the locals to have their say on the proposed closure of Purley Leisure Centre.

Croydon Conservatives have also organised a Public Meeting on November 3, 7pm at Christ Church, 859-887 Brighton Rd, CR8 2BN, to register email office@croydonconservatives.com.

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