Talks were under way last night to safeguard the future of Waveney’s flagship sports centre after a number of board members resigned from the trust set up to help run it.

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A confidential “extraordinary” meeting of Waveney District Council was called to discuss the management of the Waterlane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft amid what were described as “budgetary concerns”.

The problems have arisen just nine months after the centre reopened to the public after an £8m redevelopment project, with responsibility for its day-to-day operation passing to Sentinel Leisure Trust.

The trust, which was formed in April last year, is also responsible for other sports and leisure facilities across the district, including Bungay swimming pool and gym.

But yesterday, as councillors prepared to discuss the way forward – and with the council preparing to step in to help run the centre – Waveney insisted there was “a bright future for leisure” in the district.

In a joint statement issued by Waveney and Sentinel, a spokesman said: “Due to some budgetary concerns, Waveney District Council has been asked by the Sentinel Leisure Trust to provide strategic and operational support on an interim basis.

“This measure will enable the council and the trust to work closely together on a comprehensive review of the current business plan and will enable Sentinel to continue delivering quality leisure services in an effective and efficient manner.

“This process, which will safeguard the long-term viability of the trust, will begin immediately and the revised business plan will ensure that any interim financial support from the council is recouped.”

Yesterday, staff were being briefed on the latest developments.

The spokesman added: “There will be no impact on the availability of services and facilities currently offered to the public and staff have been reassured... that these necessary measures will secure a long and bright future for leisure in Waveney.”

The Waterlane Leisure Centre was reopened amid great fanfare in January after undergoing a major refurbishment which saw its facilities expanded and modernised.

Responsibility for the management of the council-owned centre was passed to Sentinel, under its chief executive Victoria Beck. Its contract to run leisure services for Waveney also covers the Dip Farm pitch and putt course and the soccer pitch at Barnards Centre Point in Lowestoft. The trust’s trading subsidiary, Sentinel Enterprises Ltd,, runs two yacht mooring stations and oversees the lifeguards, beach huts and two shops on Lowestoft seafront.

The Journal understands that of the seven community members and two local authority members that made up the trust’s original board of trustees, several have resigned in the past few weeks.

The spokesman for Waveney and Sentinel confirmed: “Some trustees have resigned and new trustees have been appointed, but the legal process of resignation and appointment is still not entirely finalised.”

This week, a former Sentinel employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said there had been a number of problems at Waterlane.

He said: “I think people need to be aware that this new £8m venture is not working. Lowestoft needs a facility like this, but something has to happen up there.

“People are worried about their jobs... They have been going into work worrying ‘is my job safe?’ People can’t live like that. A place like Waterlane should be working.”

The ex-worker also claimed that of the 14 staff initially employed at the centre’s café and restaurant, fewer than half were still working there, and that some centre users had cancelled their memberships.

However, these claims were dismissed yesterday.

The spokesman for Waveney and Sentinel said: “Memberships have not fallen and no staff have been made redundant as part of this process. Nothing has happened regarding staffing since the re-opening which could be considered out of the ordinary or contrary to usual business practice and expected staff turnover.”

7 comments

  • Well I received a letter today informing me that my membership will terminate at the end of the year but i can transfer if to a new exciting membership at double the price. No surprises what I will be doing!!!

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    Wilson

    Friday, October 12, 2012

  • Sorry whoever the spokesman for Waveney and Sentinel is? What a load of rubbish, people are leaving all the time and even more so now this article is out and members have got their letters telling that their fee will increase from December this year, this does not include the ones that have already left and probably a large number that will leave at Christmas. I know of seven people that have already cancelled today and there is a lot of discussion on the social media groups about this. There are several other competitive Gym membership option in Lowestoft so I guess these will be thriving in the new year. It was only a matter of time before this was going to happen, due to poor management and lack of simple potential money making activities as well as funding being spent in the wrong areas and wasted on non-profit making projects. I have had dealings with the centre in the past and written several letters with safety concerns and other related issues but never had any constructive response back from the management or no response at all.

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    NotVeryHappy

    Friday, October 12, 2012

  • I heard about these letters today and sure enough, mine and my partner had copies awaiting us on return from work this evening. I was so disgusted with the 60% rise on our monthly payment, that I have since called and cancelled both memberships. On enquiring as to why these new price plans had been implemented, i was told that the figures had been reviewed and "slight" adjustments had been made on the price plans. A 60% rise from £25 to £40 is not a "slight" rise. I for one am sick of being penalised because I work 9-5, obviously I would get it cheaper if I didn't bother to work at all...Jeremy Kyle seems like a good option right now.

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    Emma Houchin

    Friday, October 12, 2012

  • I also got my letter today and I WONT be renewing! its disgusting the way they are treating the members. I have been a member at the sports centre for more years than I care to rmeber I cancelled around 23 years ago due to being made redundant as soon as I go a perminant job I joined back up this year and now they want to change the membership and peanalise those who work 8:30-6 by doing off peak and on peak! alot of the staff are not happy asa customer we know that! il be paying for a pool which I cant use at the times convinient to me.. im paying for schoolsclubs and kids (if I wanted to do that id have kids of my own!!) Ive complained about the service and equipment and nothing gets done. Ialso know around 20 people who are also cancelling memberships

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    Lizzie 'Beth' Long

    Friday, October 12, 2012

  • A bright future for leisure in Waveney - I don't think so!!! Some prices have doubled since Sentinel took over eg Badminton court hire per hour. People will just stop using this facility if prices aren't within people's reach, What about 50p to enter as a spectator. I pay £20 a month for my son to swim with LOBSC and Sentinel want to charge me 50p to go in to help him get changed. A joke!!! This facility was built to service the people of Lowestoft. That's all the residents NOT just the wealthy ones.

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    Grumpygramp

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

  • I joined Bannatyne's Health Club Lowestoft recently and only pay £29 a month! I didn't realize just how good value it is there! A beautiful pool, steam room, sauna and spa. Over 70 classes on their activity timetable every week! Personalized fitness programs and assessments from professional fitness instructors! All of this is included with membership! And the facilties are just stunning! It really is just brilliant and you need to all see it for yourselves, go there today!!!

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    New Horizon

    Friday, October 12, 2012

  • I also received my letter today, me and the missis. Livid isnt the word. Neither of us will be renewing in Jan!..

    Report this comment

    Leon Culley

    Friday, October 12, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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