Hundreds of people in Whitworth are rallying together to try to prevent the town’s leisure centre from closing.

Parents say the “upsetting” news has disrupted their children’s swimming plans, adding that Whitworth Leisure Centre's closure will be a great loss to the community.

A council spokesperson said it was an "extremely tough decision" and they are working through the questions raised at last week's Whitworth Town Council meeting.

In May, council chiefs revealed Whitworth Leisure Centre would close in July citing the cost of living crisis, rising inflation and rising demands as primary reasons.

A report by independent financial experts Grant Thornton said if action is not taken to immediately address a budget deficit, both the council and leisure trust could be at significant financial risk.

A Facebook campaign, called ‘Save Whitworth Leisure Centre’, was created by Maggie Padjouski after the news was revealed.

It has since amassed more than 1,500 members. It is hoped the stories and support shared about the centre will be taken into consideration by council bosses.

Group admin, Zoe Rose, says her four-year-old daughter, Wynter Rose, cried when she was told the news.

Zoe, who grew up in Whitworth, said: “I am really upset by the news. My youngest daughter has only just started swimming lessons there.

Lancashire Telegraph: Wynter RoseWynter Rose (Image: Zoe Rose)

“Wynter absolutely loves swimming and when I told her we wouldn’t be able to come anymore she started crying, confused as to how she will learn to swim – and I don’t know what to tell her.”

Zoe said many swimming spaces at other pools in the area have already been taken. Others have closed their waiting lists completely.

She said: “Swimming waiting lists, even those in Rochdale, are closed now.

“I am worried about the safety of my child around water. Whitworth is surrounded by reservoirs.

"If we took her to feed the ducks I will always have that worry about her not being able to swim if she were to fall in.”

Zoe said she is “overwhelmed” by the response the Facebook group has received.

“I am overwhelmed at the level of support on the group but I also didn’t expect anything less,” she said.

“I think the council is naive if they think the people of Whitworth were just going to ‘roll over’ and [give up].

“I think the whole town feels abandoned and let down by the decision and we are always ready to stand up for what we believe in.

“I would like the council to apologise for how this whole situation has been handled and for announcing its closure without having a proper meeting with us.

"I would like them to consider keeping the pool open for a few more years while a new facility is built in Whitworth.”

Other mums and children who use Whitworth Leisure Centre have also spoken out about its closure.

Helena Doherty said: “I use the leisure centre all the time. I’ve got two kids. They both had swimming lessons there. We usually go there twice a week. One for a swimming class on Tuesdays and another for a fun-swim session.

“Every time I come, the pool is busy. It’s well-used. It’ll be a shame for the community of it closes.”

She added: “The pool is also used by people struggling with mental health or who are grieving after losing loved ones.

"Swimming and physical activity helps to improve your well-being. The staff here are really kind. There’s also a lovely little gym here which I use.

“Whitworth Leisure Centre has been the heart of the community for years. My own family is moving away so I won’t personally be effected by the closure. But I’m angry because it is always busy and I feel for the community.

“Swimming is a really important life skill for children. There are a lot of families who are struggling with finances and rising prices. They might not be able to afford private swimming lessons so school swimming lessons are important."

Jeanette Jackson, who grew up near Whitworth and attended Whitworth High School, said the centre holds special memories for her.

She said: “I visited Whitworth Leisure Centre as a child and I now have two children. I doubt I’d have learnt to swim if Whitworth pool hadn’t been here.

“We come here for swimming and we also use Rochdale Leisure Centre. My mum is aged in her 70s and uses Whitworth pool regularly. She loves swimming . She did not know it was closing.”

The women said, in their experience, there were waiting lists for children’s swimming lessons at other pools in Rossendale and over the border in Rochdale.

Helena said: “There’s a massive waiting list in Rawtenstall. I’ve been told that everyone from Whitworth will be transferred to Marl Pits. And Rochdale has massive waiting lists too.

“It’s not good for Whitworth, which I feel gets a bit forgotten. Where are all the local schools going to go for swimming lessons in future? All the other pools are a fair distance away.”

Another mum, Jamie Tiffany, from Whitworth, said: “It’s sad news.

“A lot of money needs spending on the pool. It would probably have to be knocked down and rebuilt, if it was to stay in Whitworth in the future. I don’t think there will be another one in Whitworth but I would like to see another pool built here.

"A lot of people would like a new pool and maybe a larger gym? Maybe also a play centre for children?

“There’s not a great deal for children in Whitworth. The little playground with equipment at Festival Park is all we have left. Sometimes younger children don’t want to go there because of issues with older children wrecking things."

Rossendale Council and Rossendale Leisure Trust took over the running of the Whitworth centre from Community Leisure Association Whitworth (CLAW) three years ago when it was at risk of closure. They said that although the centre was losing money at that point, the trust had a solid plan to reduce the loss. 

Since then, the pandemic and then big increases in energy bills, along with staffing costs, has seen the loss rise to £280,000 per year. 

The trust’s overall costs for wages and energy have increased by more than £1 million since before Covid, it said in the closure statement.

A spokesperson for Rossendale Council said: "We understand the upset and frustration that some residents in Whitworth feel following the announcement. 

"As previously stated, this was an extremely tough decision for the council and the Leisure Trust to take but it was a necessary one in order to ensure that both the council and the Trust can continue to operate. 

"The issues around leisure provision are not unique to Rossendale but are part of a wider national problem, with pools and leisure centres being lost across the country.

"We’ve seen a huge rise in operating costs over the past two years on top of the withdrawal of the fuel cost support by the government. All this, along with the cost-of-living crisis, means it costs so much more to run a leisure centre than it did even just two years ago. 

"There was consultation about the wider leisure vision across the borough which was agreed by full council in December 2022 which includes a proposal for a new facility in the east of the borough and that is still our intention once funding is identified. We are continuing to work closely with Sport England on this. 

"The council has had to manage deep and sustained cuts to our budget over the last 13 years whilst still ensuring we deliver on our statutory services. The closure of Whitworth Leisure Centre is a victim of all these factors. 

"We have received a number of follow up questions from last week's Whitworth Town Council meeting which we are working through and will provide back to the town council over the coming days."