The Business Plan supporting the recent decision by Trafford Council’s Executive to approve the disposal of the George H Carnall Leisure Centre to the George Carnall Community Group as a Community Asset Transfer has caused concern for Trafford Conservatives.
The centre has not been operating as a leisure centre since March 2020 and the transfer of the building and land to a community group is on the basis of £23,500 of council funding for immediate improvements to the facility and a loan facility of up to £96,000 being provided to the Group to support the transfer.
As well as gaps in the Group’s Business Plan, other concerns for Conservatives are concerns that land at the site will be sold off for residential development, the competition that the centre will provide for the recently opened Move Urmston leisure centre, lack of guarantees over rental income at the Centre and the impact of Covid-19 on demand for gym memberships.
Cllr. John Lamb, Shadow Executive Member at Trafford Council for Culture and Leisure said “It is fantastic that the community group has emerged to plan to continue to provide leisure services from the facility in Davyhulme. Conservatives on the council welcome the fact that such transfers can help local communities to thrive, often through accessing funding that local authorities cannot.
“What is of concern with this transfer however is, at the Council Executive meeting, councillors were asked in the report recommendations to approve that the transfer would not be in competition with Move Urmston (formerly Urmston Leisure Centre), despite the report clearly identifying that the facility could be a competitor. Move Urmston is operated by Trafford Leisure who manage the leisure facilities in the Trafford area on behalf of Trafford Council and in effect, there is a concern that the council is encouraging greater competition against its own offer.
“The gaps in the Business Plan regarding identifying where the funding of up to £1.4m of long term maintenance costs which have been identified is of major concern. The council has made it clear that it would be unable to fund the costs, but so far, no other options have been identified. The Business Plan also assumes rental income from the Manchester Foundation Trust teams who are currently based at the Centre, yet no lease has been drawn up to secure income and the Trust teams could leave at any time.
“With the current climate of uncertainty in the leisure sector caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Conservatives believe that it would be prudent for some independent analysis of the Business Plan for the Centre to take place to ensure minimum risk and exposure to both Trafford Council Tax payers and the community group.”