Pool to fulfil its pledge of independence
RIVERSMEET Leisure Centre in Gillingham is to celebrate three years since it opened its doors to the public as an independent venture this weekend and its fulfilment of a promise.
The Three Rivers Partnership took on the running of the town's dilapidated swimming pool in 2008, armed with a business plan which they claimed would make the leisure centre independent of tax-payers' money within three years of re-opening.
The pool had been condemned by North Dorset District Council following an announcement that all council-owned leisure centres would be closed in late 2007.
Following an extensive public consultation, the Three Rivers Partnership stepped forward and entered into negotiations with the district council about taking on the running of the leisure centre, with the Gillingham Community and Leisure Trust formed in 2009 to lead the project forward.
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Armed with a capital grant from the district council for a little under £4 million to rebuild and re-equip the centre with a new 25 metre six-lane competition pool, the trust agreed to operate and maintain the facilities on behalf of the community thereafter.
By May 2009, the physical assets had been transferred from the district council to the Three Rivers Partnership in the Gillingham Open Spaces Trust, and contracts had been signed, with building work getting underway in June. The trust set themselves the ambitious target of being independent of public funding within three years of operating, and claimed that they had the business plan that would allow them to do so – providing they had the support of the community.
John Havill, chairman of Gillingham Community and Leisure Trust and trustee for the Three Rivers Partnership said: "We are delighted to be where we are today.
"Our business plan said that we could be here and we are.
"We put the proposition to the community that we would take this on if they put the funding together and used the facility when it was ready."
Funding for the project from the community was sourced through a voluntary precept and collected through the council tax system.
"We also received a grant of £125,000 from Gillingham Town council because they had the foresight to start putting money away from 2004 so by 2008 we had that money behind us," said Mr Havill.
"We have proved that a business operation can be successful, in stark contrast with other facilities elsewhere as we are now completely self-reliant."
RiversMeet will hold a celebratory open day on Sunday between 10am and 6pm.
For more information call 01747 834013.