HUNDREDS of residents have backed a campaign to save the Queen Elizabeth Leisure Centre in Wimborne.

Within two days, 150 people signed a petition launched to prevent the closure after Dorset Council withdrew funding.

Despite a dual-use agreement between Dorset Council and Queen Elizabeth's School (part of Initio Learning Trust) running for another 60 years, the local authority said it could no longer afford to fund the loss-making centre.

Residents are said to be 'racing against the clock' to save the leisure centre, which is due to be closed to the public at the end of March this year.

Both the council and the Initio Learning Trust, which will take over the leisure centre, have said that the space will be available for private hire.

Liz West, chief executive officer of Initio Learning Trust, said: "We are disappointed that Dorset Council has cut funding and will no longer run QELC.

"We have explored every possible way of maintaining the leisure centre, including through partnerships with private operators, but without significant capital investment, it simply is not viable.

"Dorset Council were asked to provide funding to support this development, but unfortunately, they were unable to do so."

Rebecca Il Ghany started the petition and said: "Queen Elizabeth Leisure Centre plays an essential part in keeping our community - young and old - fit, active, and improving mental health.

"Having this snatched away from us will have a detrimental effect in many ways.

"It will force many to travel further afield at a time when we should be considering our environmental footprint."

She added: "For others, travel is not an option, so not only will the closure lead to a decline in health within the community."

A resident said: "The leisure centre has facilities that are unavailable elsewhere locally.

"QE leisure centre has climbing walls & a bouldering room. A thriving climbing club caters for children, teenagers & adults.

"It is run by a wonderful team of instructors & it would be a massive loss if it had to close."

Supportive comments left by signatories to the petition show strong support for Rebecca's campaign.