Fears for Gipton gala if centre is axed

A popular Leeds community event could be at risk if controversial leisure centre plans are pushed through, residents claim.

Gipton Together leaders say they fear for the future of the annual Gipton Gala if the Fearnville Leisure Centre in Oakwood Lane is shut down.

The closure of Fearnville and three other east Leeds centres, to be replaced by two 'Well Being' complexes, is part of Leeds City Council's leisure blueprint.

A leaflet distributed across east Leeds by Liberal Democrat politicians calls for a new swimming pool in York Road, possibly on land behind the Dog & Gun pub.

But both Terri Loney, of Gipton Together, and Stephen Mills, community champion for Gipton Approach, condemned the leaflet.

Mr Mills said: "It is propaganda – they are trying to put nails into the Fearnville's coffin.

"People here love the Fearnville. They have voiced their opinions about it and the overall view is they don't want it to close."

And Ms Loney said: "If they shut Fearnville I can't see where else we could hold the gala. It is the biggest event in the area and it is crucial for east Leeds.

"The money we raise helps pay for Gipton Together's classes and events through the year. If we lost those it would have a massive effect on all who take part. It would hit the community hard."

But Coun Richard Brett (Lib Dem, Burmantofts & Richmond Hill), the council's joint leader and one of the Liberal Democrat members featured on the leaflet, said: "We are in a consultation period which may lead to change. To link this consultation with the Gipton Gala is scaremongering. The gala will go on no matter what."

Coun Brett said the east Leeds pools are between 25 and 30 years old, and need money spending on them.

"That money is needed to make them fit for purpose in the 21st century.

"We have the possibility of Government money for a new pool on York Road, and we think that would be advantageous because the pools elsewhere are rather tired. The leaflet is to test the water over whether people want a new pool."

Started in the 1970s, Gipton Gala is held each July.

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