AN over-50s sports group has been promised its future will be secure once a major modernisation scheme is completed at a Wirral leisure centre.
West Kirby Concourse table tennis club, with 75 members from across the borough, claims the local authority has failed to consider them in its plans for the refurbishment and the subsequent lack of facilities could force its closure.
However, this has been refuted by the council’s cabinet member for sports and leisure, who said the club and other over-50s groups using the Concourse were a “key consideration” in the redesign.
The room used by the table tennis enthusiasts is to be doubled in size and converted to a fitness suite, with weights and state-of-art exercise machines as part of Wirral Council’s restructuring of the centre.
The tennis club will meet with the concourse manager to discuss its concenrs on Monday at 11am.
Spokesman Peter Surridge said: “It’s obvious the council wants to squeeze out older people in the hope that they can make a profit from trendy new activities.
“The over-50s bowls group at the Concourse with 50 members has already been forced out by being offered inadequate facilities and has apparently closed down.
“The council publicity states this redesign is to ‘provide the highest quality facilities for local people, improving their health, well-being and fitness for years to come’ and its publicity photographs show children and young adults enjoying themselves.
“There’s not a picture or a word about older people.”
Table tennis founder-member Maurice Crowther said: “We were never consulted or informed of the changes but only found out after seeing some plans on display and asking for a meeting with the Concourse management.”
But Cllr Chris Meaden, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said the group is mistaken: "I’d like to reassure this group that the work that is underway to modernise West Kirby Concourse will not affect access for table tennis, bowls and other 50-plus groups.
“In fact, these activities as well as exercise classes and dance were a key consideration for architects at the design stage.
“As with refurbishment at any large facility there will be an element of disruption that will inevitably affect user groups for a short period of time.
“Staff at the centre will work to deliver suitable alternative exercise arrangements.
“When complete, we will have a resource that caters to all user groups and of which we can be proud.”
The refurbishment is part of a £2m investment shared between the Concourse, Guinea Gap at Seacombe and Birkenhead’s Europa Pools over 18 months.
The money primarily will be used to improve fitness programmes and catering facilities.
The move was announced last September and followed a comprehensive review of the council’s leisure services carried out by consultancy company V4.
It is seen as a way of generating more income for the authority as it aims to reduce spending by £45m over the next two years.
The consultants’ examination found the necessary savings could not be achieved without a major reshaping of services.
The Concourse revamp includes:
New fitness suite for 100 customers.
New Spinning suite.
First-floor anf grond-floor aerobics suite.
Refurbished toilets and changing rooms.