Councillors are calling for urgent action to be taken after a leisure centre was forced to close due to the financial pressures caused by the pandemic.

Willowbrook Leisure Centre is located in the Ladygrove area of Didcot and was built in 2002. In December 2020, the building closed and management company Soll, returned the keys to Didcot Town Council who own the building and said that they would no longer continue to operate on the site.

Since the closure, the council has had to hold the building which is designed for leisure activities while being unable to open the facilities due to the national Covid restrictions. However, now leisure centre openings are on the horizon with facilities being able to open from April 12.

Despite there being a light at the end of the tunnel the Didcot leisure centre cannot open as it does not have a leisure provider to manage the premises.

In February, the council invited the public to help determine the future of Willowbrook with a public consultation. The council said the building is ideal for use as a leisure centre with gym facilities with space for social activities.

Didcot town councillors Victoria Haval, David Rouane, Paul Giesberg and Phil Davies have written an open letter to the Didcot Town Council Leader asking for urgent action to be taken to reopen the leisure centre.

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In the open letter it suggests the council’s own road map to re-opening the building is not clear to either the residents who used the space or even the town councillors representing the Ladygrove area. The four town councillors, who are all from different political parties, are asking for four actions to be taken.

Firstly, the councillors are asking to be involved in the discussion and decisions about the future of the Willowbrook building beyond the monthly scheduled committee meetings. In the open letter it states: “At SODC all councillor ‘Round Table’ discussions are held on topics that require in-depth thought, complex questioning and consideration. Why can’t similar meetings be held to thrash out the issues here?”

Secondly, the councillors want “good quality” information to be given to decision making committees and do not want to be presented with a limited and uninformed choice on Willowbrook’s future.

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Additionally, the councillors would like to see a clear timetable to monitor the progress of the leisure centre to ensure expectations are managed. Lastly, the councillors want the matter to be treated with urgency because leisure centres will be allowed to open imminently and highlighted that there are many community groups wanting to restart.

In the open letter the councillors said: “While we acknowledge that Didcot Town Council is not to blame for the closure of Willowbrook, it cannot continue with a business-as-usual approach, speed and versatility need to be adopted to tackle a challenge such as this. We look forward to working more closely together to solve our common problems.”

The leader of Didcot Town Council has been contacted for a comment.

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