More on financial threat to Energise and other GLL leisure facilities in York

In May, a media report confirmed that the GLL group – who manage several leisure facilities in York including Energise on Cornlands Road and the Yearsley swimming pool – were in financial difficulty.

Energise on Cornlands Road

They asked the York Council for support.

The move may partly explain why more progress has not been made in bringing new facilities at the York Community stadium site into use.

The York City Council said it “will continue to work closely with GLL.” 

At the time, Ian Floyd, the council’s interim head of paid services, said: “Throughout the city’s response to coronavirus we understand that the businesses we work with have had to adapt due to temporary closures, working differently and dealing with the financial demands this places on them.

We are working with our partners across the city to ensure we support them to work safely, and we continue to follow government guidance regarding our ongoing service contracts.

“City of York Council supports GLL through our leisure services contract via monthly payments. This is usually paid in arrears. Following government guidance, the council have paid three months of the contract fee upfront, covering April to June 2020.

“We understand that GLL have furloughed the majority of staff at these venues and have confirmed they are continuing to pay 100% of their salaries until May. City of York Council will continue to work closely with GLL, to work through the contract implications of the Coronavirus response which closed all public leisure facilities in March.

There has been no recent update from the Council although some facilities did subsequently reopen on a limited basis.

Yearsley pool saved yet again

But competing pool at Monks Cross still in Council’s plans

Yearsley Pool

The Council has confirmed that the Yearsley swimming pool will continue to operate until at least 2024.  Opening hours will reduce to 91 per week although this will impact on very few existing users. Provision has been made for continued use by local swimming clubs.

The pool will be run by the Council’s leisure partners GLL who are also set to run other facilities in York including Energise and any facilities provided at the Community Stadium site in Monks Cross.

The Council will continue to provide a subsidy of £300,000 a year to offset the running costs of the Yearsley Pool. Nestle have agreed that users can continue to use the adjacent car park.

The future of the pool has been at risk since the last Labour administration in the City announced grand plans for a site in Monks Cross which left no funding for Yearsley.

. While the short-term future of Yearsley now seems secure, the Council is going ahead with building another public swimming pool at Monks Cross. This means that – with the huge new pool now in use at the Sports Village, a pool on the east of the City at Energise together with numerous private pools at sports clubs, hotels and schools – the City will exceed the recommended amount of leisure water facilities. supported by Sport England.

The medium term viability of the financial package may therefore be in some doubt.

More concern over Community Stadium project

The proposed operator of the Council’s indoor sports facilities is under fire in some parts of the Country over safety standards.

PE extract 2nd Sept 2016

Private Eye magazine 2nd Sept 2016

According to Private Eye magazine (right) Greenwich Leisure has been slow to respond to complaints of tainted water in one of its pools in Swindon.

Greenwich Leisure is a not for profit “community interest company” which ran the Waterworld leisure centre on behalf of the council before it was demolished as part of a larger project to build a new community stadium.

Use of Waterworld declined rapidly and the, then Labour led, authority made additional subsidy payments to the operator between April and November 2014 to keep the pool open.

The payments were later subject to an auditor’s report.

Greenwich Leisure were appointed as the preferred contractor not only for the Stadium and associated swimming pool and sports centre but also the Yearsley pool and Energise sports centre on the other side of the City.

We reported in August 2014 that increasing costs were threatening the future of the Community Stadium complex. Things have deteriorated further since then with planning permission for additional commercial development now subject to a Judicial Review.

It has been clear for several years that the increasing size and complexity of the project has jeopardised not only the interests of taxpayers but has even brought into question whether some sports facilities in the City may also now face closure.

Recently the Council agreed to subsidise the use of Bootham Crescent by the Rugby Club until the new stadium has been completed. It is unclear how much this will cost taxpayers.

The York Council has yet to comment on the reports about swimming pool safety.

Public meeting on future of Yearsley Pool

A public meeting will take place on Monday (16th March) to discuss the future of Yearsley Swimming Pool. 

Yearsley Pool campaigners

Yearsley Pool campaigners

The meeting will be at the 68 Youth & Community Centre on Monkton Road at 4:00pm. It has been arranged as part of a council scrutiny review into the future of the pool.

The review was setup following a request by Liberal Democrat councillors to re-consider Labour’s decision to cut the £250,000 annual subsidy given to Yearsley from 2016/17.

Monday’s meeting will ask residents and users for their views on the pool and will listen to ideas about how its future can be secured.

Before the public meeting, members of the cross-party review will go on a tour of the Yearsley facility.

York Councillors unite to save Yearsley Pool

Liberal Democrat and other opposition councillors have joined together to call for action to safeguard the future of Yearsley Pool.   

from left to right Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Derek Wann, Martin Lewis Crosby, Cllr Carol Runciman, Chris Cullwick, Cllr Keith Orrell, Cllr Brain Watson (Independent Councillor) and Cllr Keith Aspden - at a recent event in Parliament Street collecting signatures for the petition to save Yearsley Pool.

from left to right Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Derek Wann, Martin Lewis Crosby, Cllr Carol Runciman, Chris Cullwick, Cllr Keith Orrell, Cllr Brain Watson (Independent Councillor) and Cllr Keith Aspden – at a recent event in Parliament Street collecting signatures for the petition to save Yearsley Pool.

In September Labour run City of York Council said it would cut the £250,000 annual subsidy given to Yearsley from 2016.

Lib Dem calls for the future of the pool to be safeguarded over the course of the next council term were defeated at October’s Full Council meeting.

Since then a petition against closure, set-up by the Yearsley Pool Action Group, has been signed by over 4,000.

Now, opposition councillors are joining together to call for action. The councillors have called for a scrutiny review to be set-up to explore ways to reduce the subsidy given to Yearsley but secure its long-term future beyond 2016.

Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Keith Aspden, who has submitted the scrutiny review request today, commented:

Labour refuse to give Yearsley Pool guarantee

Labour councillors refused to guarantee to keep Yearsley Pool open at last night’s meeting of York’s Full Council.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

 The Liberal Democrat Group moved an amendment calling on all councillors to guarantee keeping the pool open as part of the council’s £37million leisure plans.

However, the move was defeated by 12 votes to 22 with the Conservative Group abstaining.

The vote followed proposals by Labour to end the annual council subsidy to Yearsley Pool from 2016 – a move which the Yearsley Pool Action Group has warned could lead to the closure of the historic baths.

Increased cost of Community Stadium is bad news for taxpayers

Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat


Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City.  Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.

The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.

Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.

Community Stadium

The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development.  The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.

Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.

Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).

It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.

At a time when the campaign forsafe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)

Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.

Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.


Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.

A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.

Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)

Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools.  There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).

Yearsley Pool

Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus  “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen.  A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.

The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.

Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.


The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.

The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way.  However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.

No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.

What next?

The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.

Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).

The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..

Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.

Waterworld sinking?

Energise Pool It looks like the delays on the Community Stadium project are now beginning to hit other parts of the City’s leisure services.

The Councils Labour Cabinet are set to hand an additional £450,000 to the contractors running Waterworld next year to keep it going.

The delay in letting a comprehensive contract – to run all building based leisure facilities in the City – means that Energise will be asked to find an additional £20,000 in income while it looks like the Yearsley Pool will be required to fund savings of £100,000!

Users will be eagerly awaiting news of how these economies will be achieved.

Increased admission charges have already been announced

Dive in to The Swimathon 2014 at York pools


Two York swimming pools are inviting swimmers to get on their marks and sign up to join others nationwide to raise awareness of the benefits of the sport and to fundraise for charity.

Swimmers in York will take the plunge at Energise on Saturday 22 March and Yearsley Pool on Sunday 23 March 2014 as they take on the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon.

There are set distances of 1.5 kilometres, 2.5k or 5k for individuals or you can form a relay squad to take part in the Swimathon with your friends.

Entries are now open, so sign up, get training and help make this an even more successful event than last year.

Entries can be made at