[A] decision to approve further studies to decide whether to go-ahead with an ambitious ‘masterplan’ to redevelop leisure facilities in Ulverston has been welcomed.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) commissioned a report last year to examine how leisure facilities on the council’s Priory Road site could potentially be re-modelled and improved to meet the future needs of the Ulverston area.
Today’s (20 July) meeting of SLDC’s Cabinet has now agreed a further phase of feasibility study work to include extensive public consultation and planning and financial considerations, including whether funding commitments from partners could be secured.
The report to today’s meeting, by planning consultants FMG Consulting, explored the mix of facilities and what could be accommodated on the site, as well as likely costs of any scheme. It concluded the site could be re-shaped, with the site described as having ‘great potential’ by Chartered Architects, GT3 Architects.
After considering the demand and supply of sports and leisure in the area the report identified six different options for the site, scoring them against factors such as operational viability, flood risk, site access and scope for additional community development.
The highest scoring option at this stage, which is being proposed as the basis for the masterplan, includes a centre-piece new leisure centre constructed on the site of the existing tennis centre, with facilities possibly including a new six-lane 25 metre swimming pool to replace the existing four-lane pool, new sports hall, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, fitness studios, grass outdoor pitches, artificial grass pitches, a bowling green and all new reception and changing facilities.
Councillor Chris Hogg, SLDC portfolio holder for Culture and Wellbeing, said: “This has the potential to be a very exciting development.
“It would secure the future of leisure provision in Ulverston and the surrounding area, would improve the leisure offer and help people to live healthier and more active lives.
“Crucially the planning consultants’ report also says the new facility could be sustainable financially as it has the prospect of being self-sufficient and moving to a zero public subsidy, which means it could be excellent value for the taxpayer in the longer term.’’
Ulverston SLDC ward councillors also welcomed the decision to go-ahead with further studies on the masterplan.
Councillor Mark Wilson, who represents Ulverston East, described the report as ‘excellent’ and said a new leisure facility would be ‘like Christmas’ for Ulverston.
Councillor Janette Jenkinson, who represents Ulverston West, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Ulverston and this is very, very welcome.’’
The facilities at Priory Road are run by North Country Leisure (NCL) on behalf of SLDC.
The council and NCL are working together on the masterplan, which has also been informed by GSK’s (GlaxoSmithKline’s) need to relocate its sports centre as part of possible future redevelopment plans of its site on North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston.
The council has had initial discussions with GSK about how the council and GSK could work together with other possible investment partners such as Sport England to maximise the benefits for Ulverston, ensuring existing GSK sports club users and the wider community have access to good quality facilities.
Pat McIver, Project Director at GSK in Ulverston said: “We are very proud of the contribution that GSK makes to sports in Ulverston and we want to help ensure that our existing sports club users and the wider community have access to good quality facilities well into the future.
“We have a clear commitment to replace the existing GSK sports club when we need to make way for a second phase of development of the new factory. We have made it clear that in the meantime we will discuss our plans with other partners and users of the existing facilities to ensure we provide the best solution both for GSK sports club users and the wider community.
“The Ulverston leisure site masterplan commissioned by SLDC suggests that it is worth considering a new, combined leisure facility for the town.
“If it is possible to develop more high quality, modern sports facilities by working with the council and other partners, this would provide significant benefits for existing GSK sports club users and the wider community.
“Now the council has decided to proceed with a further stage of feasibility work, public consultation will be a critical element of the next phase of investigation. We will also be talking to GSK sports club users and other local stakeholders to get their views.’’
Derek Jones, Contract Manager at NCL, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity that could potentially provide the Ulverston community with a state-of-the-art leisure facility for the benefit of people now and generations to come.
“We are proud to be working with our partner South Lakeland District Council on this project.
“One of NCL’s main objectives is to increase participation in sport and physical activity. The potential of creating a one-stop-shop for sport, leisure, culture and health-related activities in Ulverston is massive and the potential benefits should not be underestimated.’’
Currently the Priory Road site is home to a swimming pool, gym, tennis centre, a full-size artificial pitch, all-weather tennis courts and new 3G pitch, as well as grass pitches and associated parking areas.
The existing cricket pitch and clubhouse adjacent to the swimming pool is on land owned by SLDC but is separately leased and would not be affected by any redevelopment of the wider site.