Angry protest at sports centre opening

PROTESTORS gathered outside the council's multi-million pound leisure centre on its official opening to campaign against the higher prices. Tendring District Council has invested £2.

James Hore

PROTESTORS gathered outside the council's multi-million pound leisure centre on its official opening to campaign against the higher prices.

Tendring District Council has invested £2.7million on the redeveloped Lifestyles Health Club in Clacton. The new health suite incorporates a spa pool, sauna, steam room and sauna as well as a modern coffee shop.

But there haven been concerns raised by people who think the new membership prices, up to £39-per month for unlimited access, are too high with claims that elderly residents will be put off.

At the opening four athletes from Tendring - who will be gunning for Olympic glory - were rewarded with free training facilities.

Caroline Westley, who plays badminton, Wayne Davies, who is a volleyball specialist and Sally Bond and Lawrence Collier, both skeet shooting, are seen as potential future Olympians.

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Protesters outside the centre yesterday were joined by Harwich MP Douglas Casrwell, who labelled it a “vanity project”.

He said: “It is a fantastic club for elderly people to get them active. They need good, fun activity as part of their social life, but they feel they are being priced out.

“They should be giving long-standing members of the leisure centre a better pricing structure which allows them to stay on here.”

Husband and wife, Barbara and Iain Bell have used the gym for the past two years.

The couple from Great Holland have said they are going to continue even they do not agree with the price increases.

Mrs Bell said: “We need to go to the gym to keep fit and healthy. I currently pay £28 a month for my membership and now it will cost me £33 a month. I think it is a lot of money to pay out for the gym.”

Mr Bell said: “I think it was inevitable that the prices would go up. The council have spent around £2.7 million on the development and a lot of new state-of-the-art equipment has been provided.

“We only want to use the gym and we can't understand why there isn't a pass solely for gym membership.”

But Pierre Oxley, the councillor in charge of leisure services at the council, said he said was very proud with what had been achieved through the Lifestyles project.

He said: “The biggest increase people will pay is £5 per month, £39 is for new people, no-one who is an existing holder will pay that yet, but in the end, I think it is fair that everyone will pay the same fee. There are no contracts either like private clubs.

“People on means-tested benefits get a discount and have to pay just £1 per session. There has been a lot of talk about leisure facilities shutting across the country - but we are not closing facilities, but opening them and improving them.

“It is a flagship development which will benefit the whole community and help our residents get fitter and healthier.

“Already it is proving very popular and we have had a fantastic response from people wanting to sign up to the facilities.”

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