GLL, the charity which now manages Swindon Council’s leisure centre under its Better brand, wants to assure users of the Haydon Centre that all current user groups will continue to be accommodated in the community building.
The comment comes after SwindonLink was contacted by organisers of Busy Fingers, the long running parent and toddler group, junior and youth club which meets at the Haydon Centre, about their worry that GLL plans to turn the hall they use into a gym.
Better regional manager Paul Sherman said he was unable to provide details as plans had not yet been discussed with the council. However he said: “Every user group will be retained at Haydon, nobody is to be evicted. Once we’ve talked with the landlord about our proposal for a gym aimed at all members of the community, we’ll be holding a public consultation.”
Busy Fingers, which first formed in the mid-1980s, has used the Haydon Centre since it opened in 1991 and now provides a meeting place for parents with babies and toddlers every morning, as well as a Friday evening club for juniors and a later group for teenagers.
Group coordinator Debbie Musa-Eigee said Haydon Centre staff had suggested the group consider the smaller studio room. “I’ve tried to explain that the small community hall allows us to bring the outdoors inside with the slides, trampoline and bikes; it is both the right size of space; the adjacent storage allows us to bring out different toys to make sessions interesting for children and parents.
“Swindon Council installed new kitchen cupboards for us so we can store our refreshment items and where we can prepare snacks and drinks for children and parents. Any change of room will mean us having to collect our toys from the garage at the beginning and taking them back at the end of the session and we have yet to discuss how we would manage snack and refreshments.
“Busy Fingers currently has 150 mums and children attending. We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to offer a fun and imaginative play, craft activities, singing and games.
“We’re really concerned that fitness facilities could be put before what community groups offer. With the recent closures of council supported Childrens’ Centres, parent and toddler groups are a lifeline for some mums; there are not enough groups in North Swindon to meet the demand. I’ve heard of mums having to queue at some groups and mums are having to be turned away because the room limit has been reached. The mums like Busy Fingers because it operates on membership rather than as a drop-in so they don’t have to think we have to be there early to get a place.
Taw Hill mum Kelly-Ann Pendle added: “It’s really disappointing that, now the building has been passed Swindon Council to the GLL charity, that an essential community group providing might have to find a new home. But there is a severe shortage of community facilities in North Swindon; parents and young children will be hit hard if we lose this space too.”
Haydon Wick Ward councillors David Renard who is the leader of Swindon Council and councillor Oliver Donachie are due to meet representatives from GLL on 24 April.
Pictured top, members of Busy Fingers concerned about the future of their group. Below, group organisers outside the Haydon Centre