People of Belper are sending out a rally cry protesting against the possible closure of the town’s leisure centre.
A four mile march is planned as locals hit out against proposals to shut Belper leisure Centre due to energy bills.
With the local council seemingly unable to afford the sharp increase in running costs, there has been uproar from the residents.
Ian Williams, one of the leading forces behind the march which is scheduled to take place tomorrow, believes it will be a big show of unity from the community.
“I think it’ll show the decision makers that we, as a collective, don’t want this (leisure centre closing) to happen,” a passionate Williams said. “The main thing that I, certainly, want is that we do the leisure centre justice because the building itself, is truly a hub of activity for people.
During the past 20 years or so #belper has lost its newspaper, police station, banks and probably now the leisure centre. Will we ever get any facilities back? Or is the future just endless house building ? We need a new Strutt family…
— Derbydaz71 (@Derbydaz71) May 20, 2023
“You get elderly people who come in just to chat and maybe exercise, kids coming in with parents learning how to swim or even athletes coming in to train.
“We believe it’s a safe haven and a symbol of Belper itself and the fact that the soaring energy costs could potentially see the centre close really is quite upsetting, not just for me but for everyone.”
A petition to save the Derbyshire hub has been signed by almost 8,000 people. The march itself is set to start at 3:30 pm and proceed to Ripley Town Hall, which is outside the borough’s council’s headquarters, at 7 pm.
— BBC Radio Derby (@BBCDerby) May 19, 2023
With over 300,000 visitors to the centre every year, people have been encouraged to join the march with a total of 40 different clubs who use the facilities also encouraged to attend.
Sources have argued that there are a few options for the centre to be able to survive, whether it be the council completing a purchase of the property, which includes the centre, an artificial pitch and the car park – although, that seems unlikely.
With 70 jobs at risk, people’s livelihoods are at stake and with Amber Valley Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council unwilling to provide the relevant funding to keep the building going, it seems like a dire situation for Williams and the 1,500 members of the leisure centre.
“I think that the march is just an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the community that we have built whilst we’ve all been at the centre,” Williams said.
“We want to send a resounding message to the bigwigs about how serious we are about keeping this going. I believe that if enough of us come and we make ourselves heard with a powerful statement like that, then surely something can be done.
“It’s sad to think about the people who could be affected by something as drastic as this, not only the members themselves but also the workers. We just want to do the town proud and we hope to cause a stir in a peaceful way.
Williams and the members of the leisure centre seem to be fighting a losing battle, but the 44-year-old will be hoping that this last roll of the dice pays off.