Angry residents in Southwater are up in arms over plans to close their village gym.
Southwater Parish Council has announced that the gym - at Southwater Leisure Centre - will shut at the end of October because councillors say it is not economically viable.
But residents are upset at the closure and have organised two protest petitions.
They have accused the council of not looking at ways to keep the gym going. However, the council maintains that it has explored ‘many other options.’
In a statement on its Facebook page, the council says: “It is not a decision that the parish council have come to lightly, there has been many discussions and deliberations on the leisure centre over the last few years, whilst recognising that change needed to happen due to continued financial losses, the parish council explored as many other options as possible first.
“In a village with a population over 12,000, it is disappointing that despite many incentives run by staff to try and attract new gym members, membership has been falling continuously.”
But gym member Sandra Kinsey said membership had tailed off because an increasing amount of gym equipment had become faulty and had not been repaired.
“People are very upset because the gym has been in Southwater for 20 years,” she said. “It has been well used because Southwater is getting bigger and bigger and there is a need for it.”
She said the gym had not been advertised by the council and queried why financial help had not been sought from developers. “Everyone is really disappointed. It could be a really good resource in the community.”
Fellow gym member Rory Raftery, and another woman member, have both launched protest petitions following concerns at the loss of the gym.
The parish council says that since the start of this financial year, the leisure centre’s expenditure “has continued to exceed the revenue that it generates, resulting in an accumulation of deficits.”
It says it incurred losses of £148,000 this year with an expected £95,000 budget deficit “which has resulted in an immediate requirement to reduce expenditure.”
Residents in comments on social media have queried what other steps had been taken to reduce the deficit and demanded full transparency to takpayers of public money.
As well as closing the gym, the council plans to save extra cash by cutting the leisure centre opening hours and says it is “still reviewing” the centre’s long term operation.