Greenwich Council library and leisure centre visitor numbers are still struggling with visitor numbers below pre-pandemic levels according to an Overview and Scrutiny meeting last night.
Leisure centre usage is averaging around 90 per cent of 2019 levels so far this year.
Library visits has fluctuated between 52 per cent and 71 per cent, though items issued is above 2019 levels.
Data used to be broken down by leisure centre though that has not happened this time around. It also used to include detailed membership numbers by site alongside visits.
What we do see is that GLL embarked on measures to encourage users back, with the report stating:
“The Recovery Plan was extremely successful, with over 150,000 visits and 6,300 new or returning members joining in the first two months, with memberships returning to around 80% of pre-COVID levels.”
Reductions in usage at leisure centres follows a long pattern occurring for some years before 2020.
A growth in low cost gyms has hit membership and that appears set to continue, with not one but two low cost gyms planned on Eltham High Street.
In Woolwich the Waterfront has long struggled, with plans to move to a new site on General Gordon Square delayed for some years. Plans were approved to open a new centre in recent months.
An issue with both the Greenwich Centre and Waterfront is very poor public realm in the area which hardly entices people to walk to the respective sites, even with a growing local population and mass housebuilding in both towns.
As I’ve banged on about for years, growth in homes at Greenwich Peninsula should be a boon to the Greenwich Centre but walking to the site couldn’t be more off-putting from major new developments such as Greenwich Millennium Village or Knight Dragon developed towers.
Woolwich is also hostile on foot and traffic clogged. When Transport for London requested money to improve the area, Greenwich refuse or allocate a fraction of sums sought.
Greenwich leisure Limited operate centres under the brand name Better. As a report before the panel yesterday highlights:
“In 2012, a new 15-year contract between GLL and RBG was agreed. It resulted in the seamless integration of 12 libraries, 5 adventure play centres, outreach sport development service, and 7 current leisure centres.
This contract has been extended to 2031, through a new deed of variation, with a lower management fee and improved surplus share to RBG over the period.”
Add all these factors and the long term decline in users appears to continue.
Hopefully a corner can be turned soon, but it will take a number of departments working together to entice visitors. It’s little use leisure centres alone acting if other departments such as Highways and Planning fail to make visiting an enticing prospect.