St Albans taxpayers may still be paying for Bricket Wood leisure centre seven months after its closure
MORE than seven months after closing a sports centre the council is still trying to negotiate its way out of the lease on the facility.
Bricket Wood sports centre shut its doors for good at the end of February this year but it has emerged that the district council is still in the process of reaching a settlement on the termination of their arrangement with landlords HSBC, which has a training college on the same site.
The council took on the facility on the proviso that it would be returned to HSBC in the same condition it was in when the lease started and it is understood that this could leave it having to fund significant refurbishment work – one of the reasons it relinquished the site in the first place.
When it took the decision to close Bricket Wood in 2009, the district council said the leisure centre needed major re-development work or “significant investment” to maintain it in its current condition.
It said that the facility had been performing “very poorly” in financial and usage terms, particularly since a new leisure centre had opened in nearby Watford. It also insisted that the money saved from closing the facility was needed to fund the re-development of Westminster Lodge.
As well as having to return the facility in its original condition, St Stephen district councillor Gordon Myland understands that the district council has been left in a position whereby it is contractually required to maintain the leisure centre until the end of the lease in 2014 while HSBC continue using it, unless an agreement can be reached.
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He said that he had on several occasions queried the thinking behind terminating the lease early if it was the case that taxpayers had to continue paying for the leisure centre even though they can’t use it.
Cllr Myland continued: “The loss of the swimming pool and the facilities down there are felt very strongly by the people of Bricket Wood. Originally, when we were first talking about it being closed we were assured it would stay open until Westminster Lodge was rebuilt, but the powers that be then decided to close it earlier.
“The issue keeps coming up. People from Bricket Wood were told go to Watford swimming pool but I understand from swimmers that to go over to that facility that you have to queue to get in there.”
But both the district council and HSBC remained tight-lipped on the matter this week.
A spokesperson for the council said it was in the “final stages” of negotiations over the settlement for the termination of the lease and said it was therefore inappropriate to comment any further.
Similarly, a spokesperson for HSBC said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment in any detail but confirmed that the organisation was in discussions with the district council about the return of the leisure centre and the “actual terms” of the surrender of the lease.