Staff at Plymouth Life Centre were outraged that they had to find out the centre would be closing via a post on Facebook yesterday (July 23).
One employee said she burst into tears after seeing the post where Plymouth City Council confirmed the Plymouth Life Centre would not be reopening until April 2021.
The sport and leisure centre, located next to Home Park in Milehouse, has been a popular destination ever since it opened in 2012, but had to close in March due to the pandemic.
Since then, hundreds of people had been looking forward to its reopening as lockdown restrictions ease.
But yesterday the council announced the centre would not be opening until next year, due to “urgent works” being carried out inside the building.
Plymouth Life Centre took to Facebook to deliver the news, but hadn’t yet informed staff members of the closure.
The post read: “Hi everyone.
“We regret to inform you that, following confirmation from Plymouth City Council, the Plymouth Life Centre will unfortunately remain closed until April 2021, while urgent works are carried out within the building.
“There have been a number of issues requiring works over the last eight years, including ongoing water leaks in certain parts of the building.
“During the last few months further surveys and investigations by the Council and Balfour Beatty, who constructed the facility, have confirmed that major works are needed to rectify these issues.
“The works will involve stripping the pool surround and changing areas back to the base concrete before relaying them with new waterproof layers. Consequential damage to walls, ceilings, fixtures and fittings, metalwork, plant and electrics will also need to be repaired.
“We understand you will naturally have lots of questions regarding the closure and your memberships/ swimming lessons during this period. We will be contacting customers directly regarding this information and will of course confirm more detail as soon as we’re in a position to do so.
“We apologise for this sad news, however we look forward to reopening the centre in 2021.”
One employee said she didn’t believe it when she first saw the post.
She said: “I didn’t believe it at first because you see so many fake things on Facebook, but when the life centre had put a statement up as well I started to cry.
“We have no idea what it means job wise as they haven’t even told us that. The information that we’ve been given is that we will be staying on the government furlough scheme. We’re all freaking out to be honest.”
She added: “All the workers want is answers, we all have families that we provide for and we deserve to know if our jobs are safe and how we are going to get paid.”
David Greenwood, Regional Contract Manager at Everyone Active (the company that owns Plymouth Life Centre), expresses his apologies to staff and customers who have been affected.
He said: “Whilst we fully support Plymouth City Council’s decision to carry out the essential remedial works so we can protect the long-term future of the centre, we are extremely disappointed about the closure of Plymouth Life Centre.
“The agreement to close the Life Centre was confirmed by the Council on Wednesday 23rd July, following their recent surveys and investigations alongside Balfour Beatty, who constructed the facility.
“All communications to notify customers and colleagues were sent as soon as possible thereafter, on Thursday 24th July.
“Unfortunately due to these extremely quick developments, it appears some of these communications were not received in the order in which we intended and we would like to apologise to those affected.
“Our customers and colleagues are our number one priority. We are communicating with them directly and will keep them abreast of the situation throughout the closure.”
Plymouth City Council says the Life Centre has faced various issues requiring building work over the last eight years, including ongoing water leaks.
But recent investigations by council officers and representatives from Balfour Beatty, which constructed the building, have shown the extent to which repair works are needed to rectify major issues.
A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said the much-needed repair works involve stripping the pool and changing areas “back to the base concrete” and relaying them with new waterproof layers.
Plus, damage to walls, ceilings, fixtures and fittings, metal work and electrics also all need to be repaired.
Deputy council leader, Peter Smith said: “We’re obviously very disappointed not to be able to reopen the Life Centre later this month.
“We know many people will have been looking forward to using the facilities again following lockdown restrictions.
“While the centre has been closed we’ve been able to do some more detailed investigation and survey work and the fact is we are looking at some issues that need to be sorted out as soon as possible.
“If we don’t carry out these essential repairs the issues will just get worse and ultimately put the long-term future of the building at risk.”
Mr Smith says the Council has “explored all options” but a partial closure would add time and cost to the building works, and is therefore not an appropriate alternative.
He said: “We have a duty to the people of Plymouth to give them the first-class facility they deserve and one they can continue to enjoy for many years to come.
“We know the huge inconvenience this will cause, which is why we have explored all options to get the work done in the shortest possible time-frame.
“A partial closure – trying to keep restricted areas open around the works – would add significant time and cost to the programme and be an unpleasant, disruptive and noisy experience for centre users.
“We want to get in, get the work done and get the centre open again so that people can get back to the sports and activities they enjoy.
“While the building is closed we will be taking the opportunity to make some additional improvements and enhancements to make sure this eight-year-old building meets the needs of today’s customers – including measures to make it fully COVID-19 compliant.
“We hope that customers will see some really positive changes when the centre reopens.
“The closure will clearly impact on our aquatics programmes but both British Swimming and Swim England are supportive of the works, which will improve the facility for swimmers and divers and help to secure the future of these sports in Plymouth.”