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Diss Leisure Centre project comes under fire over loss of sauna and steam room





Campaigners have taken a stand against plans to remove some facilities from Diss Leisure Centre – and have criticised a lack of consultation over the plans.

A number of users have formed the Warm Space Remain group in an attempt to save the sauna and steam rooms, which are set to be removed as part of a £4 million renovation of the ageing building in Victoria Road.

Due to start this month, the work will also see the swimming pool retiled and its depth reduced, while the changing rooms will be renovated and expanded.

Diss, Norfolk, 27/01/2024The group of Diss residents have spoken out on the decision to remove the steam and sauna as part of the leisure centre refurbishment. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2024
Diss, Norfolk, 27/01/2024The group of Diss residents have spoken out on the decision to remove the steam and sauna as part of the leisure centre refurbishment. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2024

The seven-figure investment, which will see the leisure centre closed for the rest of the year, has been contested by some users, who have been left angry at the removal of the sauna and steam rooms.

Among them is Warm Space Remain member Declan Hughes, who criticised South Norfolk Council for not sharing its plans sooner.

“People are very angry at not having been consulted before the council decided to spend so much money,” he told the Diss Express.

“Although we fully support the council’s necessary decision to expand the changing areas and to improve the shower facilities, the proposition does not take into account those who use the sauna and steam rooms for health reasons.

“This includes rehabilitation and physiotherapy for injuries and disabilities, pain management, and improving mental and cardiovascular health.”

The group has carried out its own research to formulate a report, outlining the health and community benefits of retaining the sauna and steam rooms.

It sent its findings to the district council this week, and maintains that the project, announced in November, is not in the best interests of the centre’s users.

“We don’t believe they are in accordance with the council’s policies on improving mental and physical health,” said Mr Hughes.

“It is our belief that, by making significant improvements in insulation, we could save the sauna and steam rooms and, thus, increase the health of the whole community.

“South Norfolk Council’s scrutiny committee has been contacted because we believe these plans contravene the strategic Diss and District Neighbourhood Plan, which promised to retain current facilities.”

The report was accompanied by a questionnaire sent to members, with respondents highlighting the rooms for helping to easing pain, while boosting social connection, self-care and detoxification.

Graham Minshull, who represents Diss and Roydon on the district council, said: “The Government offered grants to keep pools going and make them more energy efficient, so we took advantage of that.

“The cost of heating a sauna and steam room is prohibitive and would put us back in the negative in terms of using green energy.

“We had to make the bid quickly and, regrettably, that didn’t give us time for a full consultation and, without that funding, none of the improvements would have been able to happen at all.

“I haven’t had many people contact me about it – just a couple before Christmas and, by that time, all the design work was finished and work had started.

“If we were to pause everything now and start reconsidering the plans, we would lose the grant funding and everything would be delayed for months.”

The refurbishment – made possible due to £1.2 million of Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme funding from central government – is set to get under way on February 12 and will be completed in December.



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