Statement regarding Dave Stephens Centre and Blyth Lifeguards and Swimming Club

Following unfounded comments on social media over the weekend regarding our organisation's management of The Dave Stephens Centre and false claims we are charging the Blyth Lifeguards & Swimming Club to use the Tower; we have decided to share the letter sent to the lifeguards' management following our meeting with them on 12 March.

We are a not-for-profit, community-focused organisation with trustees who are all volunteers. Our aim in the instance of the Dave Stephens Centre was to ensure it continued to run following the cessation of Active Northumberland.

The centre will cost at least £40,000 per year, plus additional costs for onsite staffing. Our agreement with Northumberland County Council is to make it entirely self-sufficient and accessible to all communities in South East Northumberland. This includes keeping the toilets open to the public. Without renting out the communal rooms to the community, the centre will have no income and can not run. We have agreed to work with community-focused partners in Blyth to make it work.

The Blyth Lifeguard & Swimming Club operate from 13:00 until 17:00 as lifeguards on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the summer. We have invited them to continue this.

In the meeting on 12th March, BVEL explicitly stated to the representatives of BLSC that they could continue to use the Lifeguard tower as before. There has been no mention of a fee associated with the Tower, nor would we expect there to be one.

They have been offered help becoming a legally recognised incorporated body, support in finding funding, and free access to the community room and other rooms we manage for the first year.
They have also been offered storage space below the Tower for essential lifeguarding equipment.

Nothing is set in stone beyond the above while we assess any impact on the centre's sustainability.

Rumours are circulating that we have asked them to leave. They have NOT been asked to leave the Tower, nor the centre. The Tower is there for them to use indefinitely should they wish. They have been asked to SHARE the community facilities, which were always meant to be communal.

There are also incorrect reports that BLSC has a 25-year lease on the property. Unfortunately, BLSC management did not follow up on suggestions for this in a 2008 meeting. Failure to do so meant nothing was signed, and no permanent lease was arranged.

As a result, Active Northumberland managed the building on behalf of Northumberland County Council, allowing them to use the community room while Active received funding.

We have published this letter to show that BVEL intends for the centre to operate as a hub for the whole community, including BLSC if they wish to work collectively with us.

The letter regarding our offer to BLSC can be viewed below: