A ROW has broken out over the future of a much-loved leisure centre.

Ownership of the George Carnall centre in Urmston is being handed over to the community by Community Asset Transfer next month, something agreed by the council in 2020.

The centre is being signed over to the George Carnall Community Group which will be responsible for its running and management.

As part of the transfer signed off in October 2020, Trafford Council also gave the group more than £100,000 to support immediate necessary repairs and other initial costs.

The plan is for the centre’s new owners to apply for council funding grants in future to maintain it.

But now, a former member of the community group that helped to arrange the transfer originally has broken away and set up their own group and prepared a different business plan for the centre’s future.

This new group, the George Carnall Loyalty Group, is pushing to bringin corporate sponsors to support the centre and is worried the community asset transfer is ‘unviable’ and will threaten the centre’s future.

A spokesperson for the new group said: “It’s going to fail without a commercial partner. It’s just never going to work and members are going to be cheated out of the centre. It’s been set up to fail and it’s a total injustice to members.”

The group fears that the council is instigating ‘a managed decline’ of George Carnall that is pushing members away to other gyms, including the newly-finished Urmston Leisure Centre. They fear this will end up with the George Carnall being closed for good – something the council has denied and said the asset transfer is designed to avoid.

Gary Valentine, who was a martial arts trainer at the George Carnall for more than 30 years and is now a member of the new group, said: “It’s a crying shame. It seemed the council was diverting membership elsewhere before it was even closed and trying its very best to get it run into the ground.

“It deliberately made it very uncomfortable.”

The new group is concerned that the future of the George Carnall might also be threatened by the value of the land it sits on, which if the centre was removed, could prove lucrative as a development opportunity.

A spokesperson for the council said: “An agreement is in place to transfer the ownership of the centre to the George Carnall Community Group via a Community Asset Transfer.

“A new community group has been set up recently with alternative plans for the centre, but the transfer has already been agreed and it is too late for it to be changed."