Contractors have begun demolishing a leisure centre, which had stood in a Leicestershire village for over four decades.
Cawarden are currently on site at Whitwick’s former Hermitage Leisure Centre (January 3), following a decision by North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) in September.
The work to carefully take down the failing structure will take around 12 weeks, with much of the building’s material recycled during the process.
As a result of the amount of materials expected to be recycled, the cost to demolish will be significantly less than the £300,000 originally budgeted.
The former Hermitage Leisure Centre, which was built in the early 80s, was closed in February 2022 after the opening of the £22 million Whitwick and Coalville Leisure Centre on Stephenson Way. With the future of the site to be decided, the area will be filled, levelled and secured.
NWLDC is keen to invest in recreational facilities on the wider Hermitage Recreation Ground area, including cycle paths, footpaths, a fishing lake, football pitches and a model railway.
Councillor Richard Blunt, Leader of NWLDC, said: “With the decision made to demolish the former leisure centre, it’s important to get this work done as quickly as possible, to prevent the empty building becoming a target for anti-social behaviour and crime. We have aspirations to invest in the Hermitage Recreation Ground and are working up plans to improve the community facilities in the area.”
Ideas for repurposing the site, which sits on Silver Street, include building a community centre or using it for housing.
“We know there’s a real shortage of smaller homes for older people and the footprint of the old leisure centre is in the perfect spot for access to the businesses in Whitwick Market Place and Silver Street,” said Whitwick Cllr Stuart Gillard.
“We could build a court of sheltered housing to ensure local people can stay local as they grow older.
“And the beauty is we could kill two birds with one stone. If we’re building much needed socially rented homes for older people on the footprint of the old leisure centre that could be paid for through the council’s housing revenue account which in turn would generate a capital receipt for improvements to the public areas elsewhere on the site.
“It’s a big win! We keep and improve our much-valued public assets and build much needed homes for older people (which more often than not means freeing up the larger homes that they vacate for families).
“I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but this is the case I’m going to be making at council in the coming weeks and months.”