The Waterfront is due to be replaced with a new centre later this decade

A Greenwich councillor has criticised cleaning standards in Woolwich’s Waterfront Leisure Centre, branding the men’s changing rooms as “filthy”.

Blackheath Westcombe councillor Leo Fletcher highlighted the state of the centre, due to be replaced later this decade by a new facility on General Gordon Square, as part of a scrutiny panel session with representatives from Greenwich Leisure Limited, the centre’s operator.

GLL – which trades as Better – was formed out of the council’s leisure department in the 1990s and now controls leisure centres and libraries for councils across the country as well as its own commercial facilities.

The Waterfront opened in the 1980s, but is due to be swept away as part of plans to extend Hare Street to the River Thames. It has suffered badly from competition from nearby budget gyms, with membership numbers dropping by 20 per cent in a year.

Fletcher said: I know the building’s very old now but I’ve received quite a few complaints about the cleaning standards. If you visit the men’s changing rooms, it is filthy. A lot of people say they’re not going to use the centre because the cleaning standards are so bad.”

Gary Starkey, the partnership manager for GLL’s leisure centres, said the organisation had doubled the amount of cleaning in the centre. “To get a better standard I’ve started using the gym myself, and I shower in the changing room, and I found the same issues you mentioned.”

Eltham South councillor Matt Clare also complained of “cleanliness issues” in the Eltham Centre pool, which is only 11 years old.

Starkey said there would be “significant” works to improve the Waterfront and Eltham centres, as well as work as the Thamesmere centre in Thamesmead. “It’s fair to say that would benefit from investment,” he said.

With the new Plumstead leisure centre due to open next month – tours will be on offer from 10 February – Starkey said he thought the centre was in a good location to prosper.

“From a competiion perspective, it’s a good offering, it’s high quality – unusually for Greenwich there isn’t a huge amount of budget competition in that area. The centre is going to be so much more than a gym, it’ll be a real community hub.”

Asked about GLL’s marketing, he said: “We are confident in our marketing plan, we’ve got a very competitive offer. What we don’t try to do is compete directly on price [with budget gyms] – we simply can’t do that, we need to offer better quality and significant member benefits.”

His colleague, Richard Gallagher, said of competition from budget gyms: “We tend to have members that leave, but when we have a strategy to compete and improve quality and get the message out there that it’s more than just a gym and that there is a wider offering, we have seen people tend to come back.”

Asked if centres suffering because of competition, Starkey said services would not be cut back: “We’re confident we can compete with budget gyms, across the organisation we are committed to offering a first class service to residents.”

“We’d look and see if our programming was as effective and efficient as it possibly can be, we generally try to work smarter.”

Councillors also discussed GLL’s operation of the borough’s libraries, and heard that the Woolwich Centre Library is now the third busiest in the country. Video of that session can be seen here. You can read GLL’s report to councillors here.

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