Leisure facilities to be removed from Bell's Sports Centre by August 31

Perth and Kinross Council has agreed to Live Active Leisure's request to move its leisure services from Bell's Sports Centre to Dewars Centre and Perth schools.

The gym and fitness studios will be relocated to Dewars Centre by August 31.

Council leader Grant Laing said "everyone across the chamber is sad about this but it's a financial and weatherological necessity".

The request – which had been recommended for approval – came only two years after the council's arm's-length external organisation Live Active Leisure relocated its gym and fitness activities from Live Active Rodney to Bell’s Sports Centre as part of a major revamp.

The £750,000 investment saw Live Active Leisure open its 100+ station gym and three new fitness studios at Bell’s Sports Centre in July 2022 to much fanfare and controversy. The transformation resulted in the loss of the sprung hall in the coaching hall at Bell’s as well as the termination of gym facilities at Live Active Rodney.

In October 2023, Bell's Sports Centre suffered catastrophic flooding after several floodgates on the North Inch were not closed in time. The sports centre suffered around £2 million of damage.

On Wednesday, May 15 councillors met to consider Live Active Leisure's (LAL) request to remove its leisure services from Bell's Sports Centre.

Perth and Kinross Council's strategic lead for Economy Development and Planning David Littlejohn - who wrote the report - advised the decision would have an impact on jobs.

The report said "there are no immediate workforce implications to this report". However, Mr Littlejohn apologised and said that was inaccurate.

He said: "The wording should read: 'There are workforce implications for LAL related to this report and all relevant staff have been advised roles are at risk. The company continues to be proactive to mitigate the implications on the workforce including redeployment and retraining'."

Conservative councillor Keith Allan asked what was being done to help groups impacted and to find Perth Indoor Bowling Club alternative facilities.

Live Active Leisure's chief executive Paul Cromwell said: "We've engaged with the groups that are impacted and I've attended meetings to explain the rationale and look at any possible ways we can work with groups going forward.

"For disability groups, we're doing everything we possible can to relocate those priority groups potentially impacted."

He said they were looking at sports halls and facilities they had in schools "and how we can manage that far more strategically - between ourselves and the council - going forward".

Mr Cromwell added: "It's absolutely going to require flexibility and a new way of thinking."

Asked by Bailie Chris Ahern if the currently uninsurable Bell's Sports Centre would become insurable once Scottish Water's flood mitigation works were carried out, Mr Cromwell was unsure.

Mr Cromwell said: "After three years of not having any significant or any surface water flooding at Perth Leisure Pool we still can't attract typical comprehensive flood insurance.

"So it needs time and significant intervention in terms of the wider infrastructure but I haven't got an answer to that question right now."

Moving the report for approval council leader Grant Laing said: "As a result of the flooding in October 2023, Live Active Leisure have been, and are in the process of relocating services to Dewars and elsewhere across the Perth education estate.

"On January 22, 2024 council approved several recommendations from a review of leisure assets including consolidation of future Perth City provision onto one site.

"The PH20 report is due back to council later in the summer.

"The report does note the recent Historic Environment Scotland listing of the Bell's Sports Centre and I look forward to officers bringing forward proposals for Bell's, including consultation, later in 2024."

Seconding the motion Cllr Eric Drysdale said: "For me this decision to approve Live Active Leisure's formal request to cease operations from Bell's in just three months' time is sad, very sad indeed but unfortunately necessary in all the circumstances.

"It's clear the sums just don't add up and when you overlay the repeat flood risk factor it's clear that relocation to Dewars site together with ongoing work to find viable alternative uses for Bell's alongside LAL's engagement with local clubs and users of Bell's is the best way forward from here."