AN OFFER has been made to take on the three Active Tameside sites that are under threat of closure.
Platform Performance has made an approach to Tameside Council to keep Ashton’s Oxford Park, the Etherow Centre in Broadbottom and Active Longdendale in Mottram.
Owner Mark Council believes he and business partner Steven Whittaker could turn them into thriving sites after helping thousands from their own Dukinfield base, the key being passion from those who work there and a desire to make a difference.
Mark, 28, said: “We’ve talked about it for a long time, the way Active Tameside oversee health and wellbeing in the area.
“We see a lot of missed opportunities – why are their personal trainers not the gold standard of the area who are training others?
“We saw three sites could potentially close and that annoyed us – it’s at the point where residents may suffer because Active hasn’t been doing a good enough job.
“It’s not down to necessarily a lack of funding. We’ve basically said to Tameside, ‘Give them to us and we’ll make a success of them’.
“The report said there isn’t any provider that’s willing to step in. As far as we’re aware there hasn’t been any attempt to find a new provider.
“Let us engage in conversation with the council to see with the business we operate and the skills we have, can we step in and save those sites?
“We just want to talk to them. Firstly, to find out why they feel Active is failing and why these sites may close.
“They say what they need, we say what we can provide and then we could find some middle ground.”
Both Mark and Steven have a track record in success when it comes to health and wellbeing. After being established for five-and-a-half years, they are now starting to teach students on how to be good coaches themselves.
And while the personal touch will not be fully rolled out – if successful, the gyms will operate in the same way – some of it could make a difference.
Mark added: “The reason we founded was that many people either get a bad experience of the gym or are wary of it.
“We wanted to create an environment where people looked forward to exercise and bettering their health and wellbeing.
“Our approach is personal and our ethos is about empowering people, we want to break down barriers people may have. We don’t shout and scream and make people feel inadequate.
“That approach would apply if we’re lucky enough to get the three sites. The biggest thing that needs to change there is cultural.
“I know from past experience myself or from people who either are or were members, you walk into an Active site and you don’t get that enthusiasm, you don’t feel inspired.
“It can be like a box ticking exercise whereas we want everyone on site to be there because they want to be.
“We wouldn’t run the sites in the same way as ours but we’ll bring the culture and passion into them and breathe new life into those services. They are community services and need to be accessible. “We wouldn’t change the way they run now – take Oxford Park, we wouldn’t look to take the gym out. We’d just be looking to run it with more passion and ideas to inspire the people who go.”
A Tameside Council spokesperson said: “Like all local authorities, Tameside Council is having to make difficult decisions in the light of the extremely challenging economic climate brought on in part by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The commitment of the council to deliver and commission services that help improve the borough’s health and wellbeing remains as strong as ever whilst delivering a sustainable model of sport and leisure provision for the future.
“The council is proud of our leisure offer in Tameside and we know how valued it is by local people.
“The current provider Active Tameside has continued to support the most vulnerable throughout the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, including adults and children with complex needs as well as the children of key workers and vulnerable children through its Active Education programme.
“Initiatives such as the ‘Great Active Takeaway’ which involved the delivery of 750 ‘hot’ meals across Tameside in the week before Christmas and holiday provision for vulnerable children, have been a lifeline for many.
“Additionally, Active Tameside centres have been transformed into both Covid-19 vaccination and testing sites.
“Whilst many of the facilities have had to be closed to the public due to the pandemic, the provider has adapted its products and services to ensure that all customers have access to the support they need to stay healthy, including online activities.
“The proposals to withdraw Active Tameside services from Adventure Longendale, Active Oxford Park and Active Etherow (Bowling provision) are still subject to ongoing public consultation until Friday, March 26 and we are keen to gather views from the community before any decisions are made.
“We encourage residents and users of the centres to have their say at www.tameside.gov.uk/activetamesidesurvey.
“We can confirm we have received no direct approach from Platform Performance.”