The shock closure of Staylittle Outdoor Centre has been branded a “great tragedy” as thousands get behind a campaign to save it.

It has been just over a year since the facility was named as one of three under threat as part of a Powys County Council plan to slash its leisure services budget.

But a cabinet decision – made behind closed doors in private session – has now sealed the fate of the centre and it will close for good at the end of the financial year.

The move has been put down to a lack of viable bids to take over the running of the facility, which has been managed by Freedom Leisure since July 2015, following a “marketing exercise” by the council.

“I didn’t know that they were threatening to close it,” said Llanidloes County Councillor Gareth Morgan.

“It is a great tragedy to think it’s likely to be closed permanently. It will be a great loss to our young people, it is really bad news.

“It was a purpose-built building, our schools use it extensively and it is superbly located on the Clywedog Reservoir.

“It would have thought it would have the potential to be managed successfully in the private sector.”

It is estimated the closure early next year will generate an annual saving of more than £130,000.

Cllr Rachel Powell, Cabinet Member for Leisure, said: “The council investigated a number of options that would have seen the centre remain open, including seeking alternative operators through a marketing exercise.

“Regrettably, there were no viable options that the cabinet could support and a decision was made to close the facility at the end of the financial year.

“The building will be moth-balled giving the council the opportunity to consider future possible uses.

“As a new cabinet we hope that this will create new opportunities for all areas within the county council to explore an alternative or combined service for the Staylittle site. This would be the ideal solution.”

An online petition against the planned closure of what is the council’s only outdoor recreation centre has already received more than 4,000 signatures.

Maggie Fitzpatrick-Reeves, who started the petition, said: “It is known that at least one of the bids would have ensured the continuation of the centre’s operation at no cost to Powys County Council.

“Staylittle Outdoor Centre is a viable organisation and has already received many bookings from Powys schools, and the wider Wales and UK, for 2018 and 2019.

“Currently it is only open from March to October but with a business plan and changing to a full 12-month opening, Staylittle Outdoor Centre can become financially self supporting and so ensuring its long term security.

“Staylittle Outdoor Centre has been operating for the direct benefit of Powys residents for over 25 years and in this time thousands of children have discovered the wonderful, great outdoors and giving them the opportunity to challenge themselves in a safe and fulfilling environment.”