Boost to Gateshead leisure Centre return after site deal agreed

Gateshead Leisure Centre which is now boarded up after its controversial closure.Gateshead Leisure Centre which is now boarded up after its controversial closure.
Gateshead Leisure Centre which is now boarded up after its controversial closure. | Craig Connor/ChronicleLive
A separate application for the wider leisure centre itself asked for permission to sell alcohol and stage events including boxing, wrestling and live music.

Efforts to reopen Gateshead Leisure Centre have taken a major step forward – after a battle with police and council bosses over a new licence for the shuttered venue was resolved.

The beloved leisure centre was closed down last summer under Gateshead Council budget cuts, despite a backlash from its surrounding Saltwell and Bensham community.

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A deal has been agreed in principle for the local authority to hand over the huge facility to a new organisation, Gateshead Active, which hopes to reopen it in the coming months.

Their plans to give the sport and fitness hub a sustainable future include using it to host boxing matches, live music and football fan zones in order to generate extra revenue, while the nearby Corporation Club is also planning to relocate into the leisure centre.

But the prospect of the centre having a bar within it and staging large events is understood to have drawn concern from Northumbria Police and the council.

Licensing hearings to determine whether or not the plans, which Gateshead Active has argued are essential to the centre’s financial viability, were scheduled to be held next week.

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But they have now been called off after negotiations that have produced a compromise agreement.

That is thought to include commitments that there will be no new admissions to the ‘Corpy’ club after midnight, that the authorities will be given at least two weeks’ notice of any event with a capacity of 800 or more, and that alcohol will not be sold in a corridor next to the leisure centre’s climbing wall and soft play area while they are open.

After being told on Friday afternoon that new premises licences would be granted for the centre, Gateshead Active director and former councillor Robert Waugh said: “We are delighted that we have been able to successfully mediate the issues that the responsible authorities raised in the licensing process. We believe we have come to a sensible arrangement that gives them confidence in our operation and also allows us the freedom to make Gateshead Leisure Centre a great events space hosting quality events, delivering high quality entertainment for the community, ensuring the financial viability of the centre and supporting the local economy.”

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The social club’s application requested that it be allowed to open until 1am and serve alcohol until 12.30am, but also described it as a community hub with activities such as coffee mornings and bingo that could offer “a lifeline in an environment where isolation and loneliness have become the norm for so many”.

A separate application for the wider leisure centre itself asked for permission to sell alcohol and stage events including boxing, wrestling and live music.

Gateshead Active said such promotions were necessary to “build a secure future for the centre” so it can remain as a venue for swimming, fitness classes, and other sports and community activities.

Both the council and Northumbria Police were contacted for a comment on Friday.

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