Doncaster’s crumbling St James’ pool to stay closed

Doncaster's St James' Leisure Centre
Doncaster's St James' Leisure Centre

Doncaster’s crumbling St James’ Leisure Centre is to shut for good - unless £2 million can be found to make it safe.

Leisure bosses have announced today that the doors of the Grade II listed building will remain shut and staff will be redeployed to other leisure centres in the town.

And with neither the Trust which runs the venue or Doncaster Council having the cash available for repairs, the building, which dates from 1932 and which once played host to a concert by The Beatles, now faces an uncertain future.

Condition surveys have identified the requirement for a minimum of £2million worth of capital investment to make the venue safe for public use.

Andrew Burden, chair of trustees at Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust said: “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly and we know that St James is a much loved venue with historical significance to the area.

“We apologise to our loyal members who will be affected by this decision but we hope that people understand that it is a consequence of ensuring both the safety of valued customers and staff of DCLT.

The building closed its doors earlier this year after a roof collapse and then shut again last month after more structural problems.

“The most recent closure was the third incident to occur at the venue in the past year as a result of building health and safety. Previously the building has been made safe working with the HSE but the latest infrastructure fault was located in a high traffic, customer area which posed increased risk.

“Condition surveys are now complete and have identified the requirement for a minimum £2 million capital investment in the fabric of the building to make it structurally safe.

“St James Leisure Centre has an identified operating budget but the site only has a minimal repair and maintenance allocation in this revenue stream.

“We now believe the venue is unsafe and cannot be reopened in its current state, due to the nature of these occurrences.

“The Trust and Doncaster Council do not have sufficient funds within the capital maintenance budgets to meet this huge investment and therefore until the necessary funds can be identified, the Trust, as tenant and the council, as landlord have taken the unfortunate decision to keep the centre closed for the foreseeable future. There will be no job losses as a result of this decision as all staff will be redeployed to other DCLT sites.

“Members will be offered use of our alternative sites and while we appreciate the Turkish Baths users will be disappointed; use of the spa facilities at the Dome will be an option for them.”

Councillor Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, said: “It is sad that we have to close such an old building but unfortunately due to its age a number of severe problems have been identified. We are working with Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust to find a viable solution for the future of the site.”

The swimming pool and gym facilities re-opened after the original fault but the centre’s Turkish baths, one of only a handful of remaining traditonal baths in England, have been closed since the original incident.

The historic town centre swimming pool, built in 1932, once played host to The Beatles as well as The Searchers and Freddie and The Dreamers during the 1960s.

The building was saved from demolition last year after being given listed building status.

The centre was threatened with the bulldozer as part of Doncaster Council’s £300 million Civic and Cultural Quarter development, which has included the construction of new council offices, a town square, and a new theatre venue, Cast, in the area.

Campaigner Ray Nortrop, who died last year, made an application to the Secretary of State for the leisure centre building to be protected and the Government, backed by English Heritage, agreed and the building was given Grade II listed status and incorporated into the new project.