Closure threat for Sunderland leisure centre

Coun George Howe outside the Seaburn Centre
Coun George Howe outside the Seaburn Centre
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A LEISURE centre is in line for closure – but could make way for a new swimming pool or ice rink.

The Seaburn Centre has been tipped for closure for years, branded a “white elephant” by critics.

There have also been calls to build a swimming pool at the seafront to provide an all-weather attraction.

Work is already under way to build one at the city’s rival resort in South Shields.

Now it looks like the centre – which includes sports halls and a Wellness Centre gym – could close as part of sweeping seafront changes.

Planning officer Dan Hattle said: “It is recognised that as part of the long-term redevelopment of the Seaburn area for the benefit of the city, that that facility might have to close.”

Mr Hattle said there was no definite plan to close the centre at present, but if it were to shut down, there would be possibilities to relocate its facilities within a new development of the area.

He was speaking at a meeting to examine the Seaburn Masterplan – part of Sunderland City Council’s plans to revamp Wearside’s seafront.

Councillors said community leisure facilities were important and should be maintained in the area – but the centre was not fit for purpose.

Fulwell councillor George Howe called for a swimming pool and ice rink to be built at the site to serve seafront residents and visitors.

“A swimming pool would be a great thing for people – to be able to come down in the summer, and in the winter, to swim,” he said.

“It would attract people to the area to sustain businesses there in the winter months.

“Another pull would be an ice rink. There used to be one at Crowtree Leisure Centre, and it was very well used.”

Mr Hattle said Seaburn redevelopment plans were at a very early stage, but the masterplan “does not preclude an ice rink, pool or any other uses.”

The Seaburn Centre was raised at the council’s Prosperity and Economic Development and Environment and Attractive City scrutiny committees.

Councillors stressed that there was “no money” to develop an ice rink or swimming pool at present, and such developments would likely have to come from the private sector – where investment cash was also tight.

Silksworth councillor Phil Tye and St Chad’s councillor Alan Wright both branded the Seaburn Centre “not fit for purpose” at the Environment and Attractive City scrutiny committee.

It was pointed out that there were no sports facilities the public could walk in and use – they must be booked by clubs and groups.

The overall redevelopment of the Seaburn area is expected to take 10-to-15 years to complete. It is the sister project at Roker, involving the redevelopment of Marine Walk.

Work is already underway on improving the look and function of both areas, including installing new benches in Seaburn and new gates at Roker Pier.

It follows a widespread public consultation exercise to gather views on the seafront.

The Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) Sea Change fund granted Sunderland £1million to kickstart the economic regeneration of the area.

This was match-funded by the council to the tune of £500,000.