Lewisham Council has beefed up security at a leisure centre after an illegal rave was held on the premises.  

Officers were called to the Bridge Leisure Centre in Kangley Bridge Road just before midnight on February 28 to reports of an unlicensed music event.   

It is against the law under the Coronavirus Act to hold music events. 

On arrival police dispersed the 50-strong crowd and seized sound equipment. No arrests have been made, but officers are trying to find out who organised the event.   

At a council meeting in October Bellingham Councillor Alan Hall asked the mayor of Lewisham what was being done to secure the building after reports of trespassing. 

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

Now, following the rave, a Lewisham Council spokesperson told the local democracy service: “Unfortunately, due to criminal activity involving a number of individuals gaining access to The Bridge, we have had to increase security measures around the building.” 

It is unclear what those measures are, but the spokesperson has been asked for more details.  

Future uncertain 

The Bridge has been closed since the first national lockdown and the council does not intend to reopen it after restrictions ease due to financial problems.   

According to a council report that went before mayor and cabinet in January, the Bridge was operating at a deficit of more than £400,000 for a long time before the pandemic. 

“Through the term of the Fusion Lifestyle leisure contract the site required an annual subsidy of nearly £600,000 per annum with significant investment required in the building’s infrastructure. 

“It is acknowledged that an element of the financial losses relate to the deterioration in the quality of the building and service standards in recent years but it is also clear that the site has been running at losses of over £400,000 for many years,” it stated. 

The council estimates that to reopen the site in 2021, the Bridge would need an annual subsidy of around £750,000 in revenue, around £450,000 for essential works, with a further £600,000 for works in the first few years of reopening. 

The Bridge, located in Bellingham ward, has a 25 metre pool, a teaching pool, a gym, three studios, a three-court sports hall, four squash courts, saunas, two outdoor football pitches/cricket pitch and a small multi-use games area. 

When leisure centres reopen, the loss of facilities is not expected to be fully met elsewhere in the borough due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

But the council claims that after all restrictions are lifted demand could be met. 

After it was announced that the Bridge would remain closed, locals set up a petition to save it. It has gained more than 2,000 signatures. 

Residents also spoke to mayor and cabinet about how it has benefited the community, but the decision to keep it closed was approved.  

Cllr Andre Bourne, cabinet member for culture, jobs and skills, thanked the residents and said he would happy to attend any future meetings on the centre.   

“Having been a personal user of the Bridge for over three years, it’s a centre that was close to my heart.   

“I understand where you’re coming from and going forward I really want to use the strong community voice that we’ve heard on this topic,” he said.   

The issue of the closure was raised again at full council on March 3 after Cllr Liam Curran asked Cllr Bourne whether a “co-operative solution” could be found.  

Cllr Bourne said: “The council is committed to exploring all options for the building in the future.  

“However, there are extremely high fixed costs when opening a building of the age of the Bridge and these may be prohibitive for a co-operative solution which, presumably, would not be able to meet these costs given the lack of income to the site.  

“Notwithstanding this, officers will consider any reasonable proposals that come forward and activity explore other options.” 

In a supplementary question, Cllr Curran said: “I just wanted to publicly reiterate that this is such a vital resource. Leisure centres are never surplus to requirement. 

“We’ve both been users of that centre and we both know how important it is for local residents in Bellingham and Sydenham.  

“We’ve recently become a member of the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network and I urge [Cllr Bourne] and officers to leave no stone unturned in seeking any solution, but equally to find a co-operative solution to keeping the centre open.” 

Cllr Bourne said he “completely” agreed.  

“We will be completely transparent and we will explore every single option possible.  

“The fact that we had over 1,000 signatures on a public forum in the space of a few hours clearly means the centre means a lot to the community,” he said.