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Diss Leisure Centre’s £4M upgrade irks members due to lack of consultation

Members of a leisure centre have been left hot under the collar due to the looming loss of sauna and steam rooms and a lack of consultation over the project.

The facilities at Diss Leisure Centre are due to be closed for much of 2024 so that a £4 million renovation project can make the complex greener and more energy efficient.

The work will also include refurbishing changing rooms, extensive retiling work, making the pool shallower and the removal of the energy-sapping sauna and steam room offerings.

Diss, Norfolk, 29/11/2023Diss leisure centrePicture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2023
Diss, Norfolk, 29/11/2023Diss leisure centrePicture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2023

Shirley Cayley, from Diss, shared her disappointment at the lack of consultation.

“I’ve always wanted to see something done about the sports facilities, but there has been no consultation and lots of money set aside – with nothing to say what is being spent where, or how much the John Grose site for the new gym is costing,” she said.

“It’s public money, and it’s our money, so it should be used sensibly.

“I always said if I won the lottery, I’d invest money in to the leisure centre. Some people are referred to the centre to help them with their mental health, and what will those people do now?

“We have been offered the use of other centres, like Wymondham at half price, but then you have to travel there, and not everyone has a car.

“They could have got the John Grose site set up with the new gym equipment first, so at least people could go there instead while the pool was being refurbished,” added the 79-year-old.

David Bennett, from Diss, described himself and other members as being “up in arms” over the decision, with a possible petition on the horizon.

“I understand the need for refurbishment, but none of us were consulted, and the removal of the sauna and steam room is less than ideal,” he said.

“The two go together and, in fact, some members only come here to use those facilities. I have heard that some people are considering starting a petition to keep them.”

The 67-year-old added: “I wrote them an email and they said they are too expensive to run. The decision has members up in arms – they didn’t even bother to ask us what we wanted.”

Despite the discontent among some members, the improvements will go ahead from February 12 to early December 2024.

The project was only made possible due to £1.2 million of Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme funding from central government, to reduce the carbon footprint of the leisure centre.

This aspect has been a key factor in time constraints, which have not allowed for a consultation, according to district councillor Graham Minshull.

“When we contacted the Government about funding, we had to put a bid together, which was dependent on work starting by April 1, if approved,” he said.

“So, there have been time constraints and that funding can’t be set aside and held on to, which hasn’t left us time for a public consultation, although we have spoken to a few people, including the swimming club.

“It’s short-term pain for long-term gain, and this work really is essential, because the alternative is that we would end up having to eventually close the pool altogether.

“The steam room and sauna does cost a fortune to run, and the energy required to heat them would have meant relying on gas, which is really at odds with what we are trying to do in making the facilities greener, while improving them.”

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