Huge cost of maintaining Bricket Wood leisure centre

THOUSANDS of pounds have been spent by St Albans council maintaining a leisure centre that has been closed to the public for over 10 months.

Bricket Wood sports centre closed at the end of February this year but as the Herts Advertiser revealed in October, the district council was still trying to negotiate its way out of a lease on the facility with landlords HSBC, seven months later.

The council has been trying to reach a settlement on the termination of the arrangement with HSBC but during the process they have been contractually obliged to maintain the leisure centre until the end of lease in 2014 while HSBC continue using it.

At a full council meeting held last week, Tory leader, Councillor Julian Daly, asked how much the sports centre was costing the district council each month and the answer he received from Councillor Roger Axworthy, portfolio holder for resources and efficiencies, revealed it was costing thousands of pounds each month to maintain the property.

Councillor Daly estimates that the overall cost in the last 12 months is around �840,000 and admits that this is a figure likely to anger the public, particularly as the building was closed because significant investment was needed to maintain it in reasonable condition. He said: “If we have saved money from closing Bricket Wood, we haven’t saved much.”

He added: “An agreement was made that once the leisure centre in Watford opened, people could go there but figures show that only one fifth of those who used Bricket Wood leisure centre are now using Woodside. Where have all the other users gone?

When the decision to close the leisure centre was made in 2009 the council said the facility had been performing “very poorly” in financial and usage terms, particularly since Woodside had opened.

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They insisted that the money saved from closing the facility was needed to fund the re-development of Westminster Lodge.

The council had taken on the Bricket Wood sports centre on the proviso that it would be returned to HSBC in the same condition it was in when the lease started and the cost of refurbishment work that would be needed was a key factor in its decision to relinquish the site.

Anthony Rowlands, portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said that the sum involved was a great deal less than the council would have had to pay over the remaining four years of the lease, particularly bearing in mind that it would have had to pay significant dilapidation costs at the end of the lease in 2014.