Beau Sejour ‘not washing its face’ – ESC president
BEAU SEJOUR has been ‘lacking strategic purpose’ for years, according to Education, Sport & Culture president Andrea Dudley-Owen.
She has announced that her committee has started a review of the leisure centre amid claims at this week’s States meeting that its annual losses have spiralled to £1m.
‘We are very conscious of the fact that Beau Sejour is not washing its face to the extent that it is required to,’ she said.
‘It’s a brilliant facility, the theatre shows there are amazing, and with the Eisteddfod it’s a wonderful hotbed of activity, but it’s just proving very expensive to run.
‘Possibly a strategic purpose has been lacking for quite some time. That is recognised across the senior leaders within the service who run the centre. We have looked at the issues and the concerns, and potential future concerns, at a very high level.’
Deputy Dudley-Owen was unable to say what the review would cover or when it would conclude.
She said it was being led by officials.
‘Needless to say, it is a broad approach to look at what Beau Sejour needs to do to fulfil the island’s requirements, taking into consideration you’ve got private gyms, another theatre and all kinds of sports facilities.’
Deputy Dudley-Owen declined to pre-empt whether the review would consider selling off Beau Sejour wholly or partially.
ESC’s lead member for sport, Deputy Andy Cameron, said he would fight hard to maintain Beau Sejour as a vibrant sports and events venue in the public sector.
‘I think most deputies and islanders would,’ he said, adding that some of its facilities, such as the pool and gym, remained popular.
Deputy Cameron hoped his committee’s review would evaluate the centre’s contribution to the community’s mental health and wellbeing – ‘particularly in keeping elderly residents active and independent, thus reducing the need for costly residential care’.
He said that revamping the cafe could generate additional revenue and he would like to see a bar or social hub, a soft play area and more activities for teenagers to attract families.
‘During my teenage years, roller skating, roller hockey, basketball, discos, pool tables and arcade games were available. I practically lived at Beau Sejour at weekends,’ he said.
‘Re-evaluating the use of the foyer is essential. Instead of functioning as a car sales room, Beau Sejour should promote active travel and discourage car use among its customers. This would align better with the centre’s mission.
‘By implementing these changes and studying successful models from elsewhere, the centre can work towards achieving a more sustainable financial position.’
Guernsey Sports Commission operations director Graham Chester was unaware of ESC’s review.
‘If there is to be one, I’m sure the Sports Commission would like to be involved, in whatever guise that is,’ he said.
‘Leisure centres, wherever they may be, are run more as a community asset, I’m not aware of any that run at a profit.’
The review came to light after questions were asked about the centre’s future by Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller.
She said she understood losses had increased, partly due to staff pay awards, and that she would like the review to consider radical options for the centre and its grounds.
‘Obviously it’s costing us money, but it has a lot of assets and this amazing estate, so I would like to know if there was a plan for it,’ she said.
‘We have all the land around it. Should we be using it to develop facilities or housing? It’s prime real estate in the middle of St Peter Port, so it shouldn’t be running at a deficit.’