Published on

1 December 2023

Bright future for St Crispin's as school and community use agreed

Sport and community usage will continue, with vital new school places also created, following consultation with residents

The badminton courts in the sports hall at St Crispin's Leisure Centre

St Crispin’s Leisure Centre will be reinvigorated as a centre for education and community use following a decision by Wokingham Borough Council’s executive.

Usage of the facility off London Road, near Wokingham town centre, had been declining since the Covid-19 pandemic and the opening of the nearby Wokingham Leisure Centre at Carnival Hub so it was becoming unviable commercially.

However, following last night’s (Thursday, 30 November) decision, it will now be repurposed to provide much-needed extra school places while continuing to offer important amenities for residents and community groups.

Subject to legal agreement, the centre will be transferred through an academy lease arrangement to the Circle Trust, which runs St Crispin’s School and others in the borough, to help it safely expand the school with 55 more pupils in Year 7 next year and in subsequent years.

Staying open to the community

The trust will convert parts of the centre into classrooms and use it in the school day but has committed to keep the existing community use, including specific sports like squash, outside school hours.

Cllr Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services, said: “With a growing pupil population and limited funding, we’ve got to find the most cost-effective ways to provide high-quality school places.

“Transferring a leisure centre that has falling usage to a good school is a perfect way to do that. It isn’t the only answer, as we have a £25m expansion plan for schools across the borough, but it will give us greater certainty in providing quality school places for local children.”

This decision followed a public consultation which highlighted the importance of keeping community and some sporting use at the centre despite fewer users.

Your views made a difference

Cllr Stephen Conway, leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We have a duty to make the best use of our assets, and I’m pleased that we’ve found a way to ensure its future for the whole community.

“I’d like to thank those who took part in the consultation, because their feedback has been vital in identifying what’s important to maintain at the centre where possible while also using it for vital school expansion.”

Detailed discussions will now take place with the Circle Trust and Places Leisure, which runs the council’s leisure centres, to agree the best way to continue sport and community use. The trust can accommodate many activities that take place at St Crispin’s while Places Leisure will look at other locations it could use.

Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “I’ve been hugely encouraged by the flexibility shown by both the Circle Trust and Places Leisure in their response to the consultation and the community’s aspirations.

“St Crispin’s Leisure Centre was a fantastic facility, and I am grateful for the way it has been run by Places Leisure, but the decreasing usage could easily have led to closure as has happened to other facilities around the country.

“That would have meant an end to community and sporting use at the centre for the wider public, but instead we are finding ways to meet the need for school places while keeping key public uses.”

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