CLOSING a leisure centre where Harry Styles made his first public appearance would be akin to closing the Cavern Club in Liverpool, a Cheshire East councillor said.

Cllr Andrew Kolker made his comments during yesterday’s (Monday) meeting of the environment and communities committee, where councillors were considering a revised strategic leisure plan in a bid to make £1.3m of savings.

The Conservative councillor said the amended plan was a great improvement on the previous one, which had proposed consulting on closing leisure centres at Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Knutsford and Poynton.

The revised version, which was approved yesterday, includes off-loading the leisure centres at Holmes Chapel and Middlewich to the high schools, which currently have a joint use agreement.

It also includes price hikes, reductions in the concessionary discount schemes and an ‘invest to save’ programme of improvement works, at some of the council’s leisure centres.

Cllr Kolker was speaking as chair of Everybody Health & Leisure Trust (EHL) – which runs the council’s leisure services.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Andrew KolkerCllr Andrew Kolker (Image: Cheshire East Council)

He told the committee: “We will work with the schools at both Middlewich and Holmes Chapel over the next two months to help find the best ways to ensure continued community leisure access at the two school sites whilst they continue to deliver their educational needs.

“Now this, as a ward councillor in Holmes Chapel, is imperative. We must have continued community access, no matter who runs the site.”

He added: “After all, in Holmes Chapel, this was the site of Harry Styles’ first public performance, and so closing it would be akin to closing the Cavern Club in Liverpool.”

Northwich Guardian: Cllr John BirdCllr John Bird (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Middlewich councillor John Bird (Ind) also sought assurance local residents would be able to access the leisure centre once it was handed over to the school, which already owns it.

He said Middlewich was going to be hit particularly hard by the proposals and ‘to make use of any private leisure provision requires at least a 20 minute drive’.

“I strongly request that we think about how we’re going to work with the school to ensure some sort of provision is available is small towns like Middlewich,” said Cllr Bird.

He was told the council was in talks with the schools to ensure community access to the centres would continue.