HUNDREDS of new school places have been secured for Wokingham as St Crispin’s Leisure Centre is handed over to a neighbouring school from the end of July.

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) decided to re-open the sports centre for education and community use after the facility saw a decline in usage since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The space will be used to expand the neighbouring St Crispin’s School, allowing for the provision of 300 more school places in the next five years. The first of these will be available from September 2024, as part of wider council efforts to meet rising demands for school places in the borough.

The authority decided in November 2023 that the centre will be handed over to The Circle Trust, which owns St Crispin’s School, on Sunday, July 22. It will then reopen its doors from Monday, July 29. Places Leisure members, the company that runs the facility, will no longer be able to use the gym or sports courts from 6pm on Sunday July 21.

WBC said that due to the opening of nearby Wokingham Leisure Centre at Carnival Hub, the St Crispin’s centre ‘was becoming unviable commercially’.

This came despite strong opposition from a public consultation on the proposed closure. Nearly 80 per cent of users of the centre disagreed or strongly disagreed, feeling they would lose a valuable piece of their community.

Following this, the councillor responsible for leisure, Ian Shenton, said the Circle Trust would agree to open the centre for public use outside of school hours.

Places Leisure has also relocated its services to other facilities in the past six months for continued use.

The bottle and clothing bank, currently in the leisure centre carpark, will be removed.

Cllr Prue Bray, in charge of children’s services, said: “We have found a positive way to provide both the secondary school places we so urgently need and to continue sport and community use at the centre.

“We have huge demands for secondary school places and by repurposing the centre, which had declining numbers, it will help us provide these much-needed quality school places.”

The contract manager of Wokingham at Places Leisure, Tony Penge, said: “We’re pleased the centre will continue to be used by a number of key community groups and clubs along with providing the Circle Trust with additional space.”