Some leisure centres in Lewisham may not reopen at all during the pandemic, the council has indicated.  

In response to a councillor’s question ahead of full council on Wednesday (October 21), Mayor Damien Egan said there would have to be a balance between the cost of making the centres Covid-19 safety compliant and the council’s “ambition to provide an accessible leisure offer for all Lewisham residents”.  

Last month, Lewisham announced that a phased reopening its leisure centres and swimming pools was set to begin in October.   

It is expected that four leisure centres will open in the coming weeks, starting with Glass Mill, Forest Hill Pools, and Ladywell Arena in October, and Wavelengths in November.   

The exact dates have not been released yet, though the council said it would publish them in early October.  

Lewisham recently cut ties with its main leisure contractor Fusion Lifestyle in the wake of “significant financial challenges” caused by Covid-19.    

The borough’s leisure facilities were managed on behalf of the council by two contractors, 1Life for the Downham Health and Leisure Centre and Fusion for the rest.  

Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which operates under the brand ‘Better’, will now be managing the Lewisham leisure facilities previously run by Fusion.   

The decision to award GLL the contract, which is for two years, was made under urgency procedures on August 12 behind closed doors. 

Most of the council-run leisure facilities were closed during the pandemic, while Downham opened with limited services in July.   

It is unclear when the rest will open, and according to the council it may not be possible to make all of them Covid safety compliant if the cost is too high.  

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Bellingham Leisure Centre has no reopening date set yet

In a question submitted ahead of full council, Bellingham Councillor Alan Hall asked the mayor for an update “on the security and future” of the Bridge Leisure Centre. 

At the meeting he asked a further question about security after receiving reports from residents of trespassing around the centre.  

Mayor Damien Egan said GLL is in the process of assessing all leisure centres and that the council expects “to be a position to be more specific about plans for the other centres, including The Bridge, in November”.  

“These assessments include a building condition survey and a review of the readiness to open under Covid-19 secure rules including, increased ventilation requirements.  

“We are aware that our older facilities do not have the necessary modern air handling and ventilation systems, therefore more detailed survey work is required to ensure the facilities can meet the Covid-19 safety conditions,” he said.  

Mayor Egan acknowledged the Bridge is “important to the many residents and groups”, but added that the financial challenges of reopening leisure centres “should not be underestimated”.   

“Once the assessments have been completed, officers will work with GLL to explore the costs associated with reopening, balanced with our ambition to provide an accessible leisure offer for all Lewisham residents,” he said.  

Both the Bridge in Lower Sydenham and nearby Bellingham Leisure Centre have remained shut since lockdown.  

Mayor Egan said he will “definitely consider securing” the building. 

“We’re looking at all of the services we provide and we want to ensure that Lewisham residents right across the borough, including Bellingham, have access to leisure facilities as well,” he added.