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The first thing I would say is get it listed as an ‘asset of community value’. That will involve the local council but it would be very hard to refuse as it is clearly such an asset.
I’m not sure if transferring it within the council constitutes a ‘sale’ as such but you may be able to hold up the process by having it listed. This should ensure a moratorium on the transfer and allow the community time to organise and possibly apply for an asset transfer to a community group to run. That’s the simplistic outline but it involves a lot of commitment from a group. And it sounds as though there is no political will to support you. (Worth pointing out to Cllrs that 50-80 year olds make up the majority of voters and May 2016 is not that far away?)
I also wonder if converting the sports centre into classrooms would be free from the planning process. It is a change of use as far as I can see.
At the end of the day council are looking to cut budgets and will want to pursue a centralisation option. It will be up to the community to come together and form a group willing to take on that responsibility.
Sports England may be able to help by putting you in touch with similar projects for advice and they may support with funding?
For advice on Listing Assets of Community Value and Asset Transfer I would talk to Locality http://locality.org.uk/our-work/assets/