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HomeCOMMUNITYLaura Trott MP: Leisure centre plays a huge role in our community

Laura Trott MP: Leisure centre plays a huge role in our community

I like to use my column to celebrate the fantastic work taking place by so many of you locally. So, I want to start this month’s reflections by passing on my huge congratulations to Sevenoaks Town FC Merit U13 Boys who are now the proud champions of the Kent FA County Cup. This is a terrific achievement, and it is great to see our community thriving in cross county competitions.

However, sadly the last month has not all been cause for celebration. The closure of Sevenoaks Leisure Centre was extremely disappointing and incredibly distressing for former staff and club members.

From the outset I want to provide reassurance to all readers that the leisure centre will reopen. At the time of writing, Sevenoaks District Council has plans in place to bring in a new operator, and with the help and cooperation of all parties, this should be in place within a matter of weeks. I urge the Sencio Board and its insolvency agency to do everything in their power to help the council achieve this aim and I will be monitoring Sencio’s cooperation very closely.

Readers will know all too well the huge role Sevenoaks Leisure Centre plays in our community, and following the announcement that Sencio, the leisure trust which operates Sevenoaks Leisure Centre and Lullingstone Park Golf Course (along with Edenbridge Leisure Centre which sits outside of my constituency) had gone out of business, I have been particularly worried about the impact for our local clubs, teams and schools.

From the start I have made strong representation that arrangements are made to enable at least some facilities elsewhere to be used by Sencio members, and I am grateful to Everyone Active (who operate the council’s Swanley White Oak Leisure Centre) who have offered Sencio gym members free access to any of their gyms for up to four weeks, as well as options for relocation to schools and clubs who were already using the leisure centre.

Travelling to alternative sites will of course not be possible for everyone, and that is why I have also been in contact with local providers with leisure facilities and activity space to see if they are able to help on a temporary basis whilst the leisure centre is closed. And I am pleased to report that I have been heartened by the response.

West Heath School are helping a number of local primary schools and Sevenoaks School have gone out of their way – they are helping Sevenoaks Swimming Club, a number of local primary schools and are looking at what more they can do to support local fitness groups. 

Offers of help have also been made by The Stag Sevenoaks, and Sevenoaks Town Council, who although having limited regular availability, are also seeing if they can help cover some displaced Sencio activities.

A huge and heartfelt thanks to all those who have come forward. I really am grateful for your support and once again we have shown the strength of our community spirit when faced with difficulties.

Understandably, my immediate focus remains on supporting members and staff impacted, however it will be vital that we understand why this occurred so suddenly. Over the last few years Sencio have received nearly £1.4m of public money, including £411,000 from Sevenoaks District Council to help them through lockdown and with business recovery. Additionally, the Council has invested annually in maintenance, latterly around £190,000 per annum alongside an annual management fee.

It is essential that we understand how, despite this support, the leisure centre has found itself in this position and ensure a similar situation never happens again. But for now, I am doing all I can to help those affected, and I know everyone at Sevenoaks District Council is focused on getting our vital leisure centre open again as quickly as possible.

• Laura Trott is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks & Swanley and was first elected in December 2019. She is here to help the community, regardless of how you voted, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with her at laura.trott.mp@parliament.uk.

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