From The Murky Depths

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Greenwich borough

Leisure centre members continue to fall at Waterfront in Woolwich

Membership numbers at some of the biggest Greenwich leisure centres continue to show declining numbers.

Waterfront in Woolwich saw a 17% annual reduction in members according to the latest figures.



The Greenwich Centre saw a 9% fall.

At Greenwich the number of private competitors is blamed.

In Woolwich the closure of Waterfront car park for Berkeley Home’s forthcoming towers is blamed in addition to private competition. Another private gym, Energie Fitness, is opening very close on Hare Street on 6th December.

Former car park

The closure of the car park should have seen some investment in public realm to encourage walking and cycling from Woolwich town centre and station but none has appeared. Dated road design and excessive street clutter abounds outside.

The Eltham Centre saw an increase but no number is mentioned.

Figures are not given for Thamesmead nor Coldharbour.



Sutcliffe Park appears to have got off to a good start with 90,000 visits since opening.

Why the fall?

Low cost gym operators appear to be hitting council centres hard. Many are cheap, have no long-term contracts with some open 24/7.

Marketing from Better could certainly be, well, better. I googled Waterfront and there’s no information on monthly costs on the initial landing page. In a price sensitive market that is essential.

They mention half price joining fees but low cost gym groups sometimes do not offer any as it is, and almost always highlight low monthly costs in marketing and on websites.

Clicking through to another page shows monthly costs of £30.85 verses £22.99 at the forthcoming Energie Gym. PureGym in Charlton is even less at £19.99 a month and open 24/7 with no long term contract. Competition is fierce.



Also, public realm around leisure centres is poor and dissuades walking and cycling to reach them. The Greenwich Centre has a pretty dire junction outside along with many poorly designed streets in the area which are a big barrier to access, especially from new build homes on the Peninsula.

Greenwich Council and operators Better will be hoping that Waterfront’s move to General Gordon Square will rejuvenate the centre and increase numbers. It is scheduled after 2020.




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10 Comments

  1. Jim

    The new pool is no where near as nice as the pool in the old arches – it’s like 1.1m in depth or something ridiculous.

    Similarly, the old arches gymnasium had some natural light in places, as well as enclosed fitness studios. The new gym is in the basement, no natural light, and the spin class spills into the same area as the gym.

    Lastly, being the basement, no phone signal, and the wifi is overly complicated to join every visit!

    This all adds up to me having zero interested in going to the greenwich centre gym…..

    I think it’s tough to blame “competition” – I’d blame a poor product!

  2. GreenwichRes

    Yes, I agree with Jim. The old Arches gym was so much better – natural light and a more pleasant space.

    Also the inferior adults pool, the inferior kids pool and the loss of the sauna makes me wonder what the council were thinking of when they passed this. I hope the same doesn’t happen to the Waterfront centre.

  3. HK

    I used to use the 5-a-side indoor pitch on a weekly basis but I’ve not really used it for almost a year.
    A big issue for me is not being able to park at the Waterfront site.
    Sure there is some limited parking nearby, but where I use to go to the Waterfront in the evening afterwork (around 8pm), I wouldn’t feel safe at all even walking to the other carparks, nevermind walking through the town centre when it’s dark with all the street violence and stabbings in the area

  4. fromthemurkydepths

    Things like phone reception aren’t the first things I’d think of but you’re right – having wifi to listen to Spotify, iPlayer etc whilst in gym is important to many.

  5. David Hirschfield

    I attempted to join the Waterfront Centre with my 12 year old daughter who is home schooled so she could swim and excercise 3 times a week. They would only allow her to use the facilities after 4.00pm and I would have to excercise before 5.00pm allowing. Neither of us joined. No one answered their membership line, you have to drive down there to get information. Greenwich has apparently already sold the land to developers as the Waterfront location can produce eye-watering profits. Membership income is secondary to Greenwich quick making short term gains by selling off assets like prime river-front land.

    Its a shame how the planners have created a tsunami of buildings along the Thames in Woolwich. Woolwich has never made wise decisions when it comes to urban design and land planning. This is evidenced by the horrific 1970esque road sytems, the huge growth of buildings without parking facilities, and the resulting overloading of the road Infrastructure. I doubt they have created meaningful development impact studies or if they have, they’ve convinced themselves that all extra traffic generated will use public transportation. The reality is that most local traffic is vehicular.

    And, with the new Ikea opening in Charlton/N Greenwich in a few months, you can bet the road congestion will clot that area too. There has been no accommodation for increased traffic in that area which has been increasing due to the residential building tsunami created nearby towards the river.

    Ikea I’m sure has not provided sufficient parking in line with those required by retail planning. The existing parking area on the site which used to be Sainsbury is in no way sufficient and on weekends you can bet that the traffic will back up onto the antiquated highway exits.

    As long as they get the business rates into the coffers…

  6. Marco Antonio

    The gym has so much potential but I was unattracted to the lack of cleanliness.

    The Charlton gym is more expensive, however, this gym and other council gyms which are 1/2 the size of Woolwich are cleaner, nicer and have no lingering odors throughout the building.

    Competition helps other gyms become more competitive which is good, however it’s disappointing that businesses need this to motivate change to their business/gym strategy.

  7. Richard Cleverley

    GLS (“Better”) have the contract to run leisure centres here in Manchester. I found their customer service to be poor, publicity for what’s available and pricing to be confusing, and a website that’s hard to negotiate. With low priced private places offering no frills no long term commitment memberships for about £14 perhaps they’re over extending themselves.

  8. I’m not surprised the Waterfront’s numbers are declining; it really feels like it’s being run down prior to closure. The Greenwich Centre numbers should be a wake-up call, though…

    Better generally need a kick up the backside with regards to their marketing and customer engagement. It seems to be very top down with individual centres having little autonomy to run their own campaigns or customer communications (eg Charlton Lido members got an invite to add Tuesday evening’s customer forum with the email reaching most people on Tuesday morning – a fault of the head office, by all accounts). My experience is that the front desk staff by and large do a good job, despite the terrible website and policies that they’re lumbered with by the main organisation.

    The councillors who allowed the Greenwich Centre developers to get away with making the main pool so shallow should be ashamed, in my view – a real missed opportunity to have a quality modern pool in Greenwich. Swimmers need to keep an eye on the plans for the Waterfront’s replacement.

  9. Phil Barker

    I used the gym, as a disabled person, in a trial and what put me off were the showers. There was no where to put my shower gel, apart from the floor, and it also felt quite intimidating with a class full of school children there.

  10. Sarah R

    For the Greenwich centre, People have stopped going because they are dirty and poorly managed. although they have a pool, even the gym only membership is far to expensive compared to other nicer gyms in the area with natural light and classes not spilling into other areas of the gym.

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