THE fortunes of a leisure centre which suffered a 50% drop in the number of swimmers using the facility have been reversed, thanks to a significant investment from the district council.

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The number of people swimming at Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury had plunged by 54% during the 2011/12 financial year, while the figure for those using the Hadleigh Swimming Pool also dropped by 45%.

The huge drop in people using the two facilities was blamed for a £102,000 loss made by South Suffolk Leisure (SSL) – the company that runs the centres on behalf of Babergh District Council. However, the company’s chief executive, Tracey Copping, said there had already been a marked improvement in the current financial year.

Kingfisher Leisure Centre has recently undergone major refurbishment of its reception and catering areas, and the Little Kingfishers Play Centre attached to the main facility will celebrate its first anniversary this week.

Babergh District Council, which is responsible for maintaining the building, has also earmarked £168,000 for repairs to under-floor service ducting at the pool as part of a 20-year investment plan.

Ms Copping said: “Last financial year, we had a terrible time with massive drops in usage but things are definitely on the up. When Babergh formed a trust in 2005 for the management of the building it was in a sorry state.

“Kingfisher has been here for more than 25 years and after such a difficult year in 2011/12, we have done things to make sure every cost is controlled and that everyone is working harder to ensure that we are here in the future.

“We are really grateful for the support and investment of the local authority, which have enabled us to be proactive and make significant improvements.”

Babergh’s asset management chief, Ryan Jones, said the new repair work, funded from existing maintenance budgets, would be to structural concrete service ducts surrounding the pool tank. He added: “Specialist repairs were undertaken in 2002 to these ducts, but since then, a large amount of the pipework within the ducts – which has been there since the facility opened in 1986 – has also deteriorated and needs replacing.

“The work will not have any effect on pool users and we should be able to remain open throughout.”

The new £2.4million Hadleigh Leisure Centre, which opened last November, has also been well received, Ms Copping said, adding: “We have gained such positive feedback about it and participation in classes is much higher than we predicted. We now also have 10 apprentices working for us across the two sites.”

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