THE future of Cinderford leisure centre will be decided next week after the district council were given the opportunity to take up a 1,000-year lease agreement for the facility.

South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, who own the site, offered the Forest of Dean District Council the long term lease and stated the leisure centre will remain open after May 31.

Kevin Hamblin, chief executive of the school trust which runs Forest High School in Cinderford, told the Forest of Dean cabinet meeting on Thursday that they were not in business to fund the leisure facility, “We just write the cheques,” he said.

“As an educational establishment, we will not be locking the doors to the leisure centre on May 31, however it is up to the Forest of Dean District Council to take responsibility of the facility.

“The length of lease is not a problem, I am prepared to offer the council a 999-year lease, it’s the freehold which is not available.”

Brian Robinson, cabinet member for strategic procurement, said: “We fully understand the financial restrictions the school is facing.

“The problem for members was the relatively short length of lease. Up until this meeting there was never any discussion of a 999-year lease. If we can negotiate this long-term lease agreement, it’s effectively the same as owning it.”

Cllr Robinson then asked for an extension of time so that the new offer could be evaluated, but Mr Hamblin declined and said that the authority already been given 10 months notice that the school would not be putting a single penny towards the facility’s running costs from June 1.

Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for finance, asset management told the meeting that if the authority takes on the leisure centre it would effectively mean a 1.94 percentage rise in the council tax.

However Cllr Patrick Molyneux, leader of the council said: “We are not putting up the council tax- the percentage figure used was to indicate its significance on our budget.”

The cabinet agreed that officers should liaise with the trust and come up with a revised plan of action which will be debated by the full council on Thursday, April 14.Meanwhile, an open meeting with the public is to be held at the Miners Welfare Hall in Cinderford on Wednesday April 20 at 7pm.It is hoped a panel made up of representatives of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and Forest of Dean District Council cabinet members will face questions from the public.