The future of a decaying leisure centre has been secured for the next six years but threat of closure still looms over its long-term survival.

Lib Dem councillors agreed on Monday night that Cheam Leisure Centre, known locally as Cheam Baths, will be kept open until at least 2015 until its replacement in the west of the borough is up and running.

But the move has angered Conservative councillors, who have campaigned for several years to keep the centre open out of concern people will lose out.

At the meeting Sutton’s lead councillor for leisure, Councillor Graham Tope, said no decision had been made about a location for a new centre, but the timescale allowed time to consult and to take expert advice.

He said it would not be possible to rebuild on the existing site without denying residents swimming facilities while the old baths were being knocked down and rebuilt.

However, opposition leader Paul Scully said the Nonsuch byelection candidate Georg Braun would take up the campaign for the service to be maintained on the existing site.

He said: “The Lib Dem council’s leisure boss has definitively said Cheam Baths will close. Not now, but in the near future.

“It seems without plans to help local schools that rely on the baths for swimming lessons.”

At the meeting plans for an eight-year programme of building maintenance and upgrading at Westcroft and Cheam Leisure Centres were also agreed.

Coun Tope said: “We all know the [Cheam] building is already 70 years old and no longer meets the standards of modern leisure centres.

“In addition, the cost of maintaining it is increasing, and it’s losing customers.

“One day the baths will have to be replaced, and this administration has given a firm commitment to build a modern centre close to where it is now, and that does not mean Sutton town centre.”

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