[N]early 1,000 residents responded to a consultation on ambitious ‘masterplan’ proposals to redevelop leisure facilities in Ulverston.
A consultation was held at the end of last year inviting residents – whether they use existing facilities or not – leisure centre customers, clubs, user groups and other stakeholders to offer ideas and opinions on proposals for a potential £13m redevelopment of the Priory Road site.
Around 850 people completed the on-line consultation and others filled in forms at a series of consultation events. Responses were received from people living right across South Lakeland district, as well as residents in neighbouring Barrow and Dalton.
The responses have been collated and show overwhelming support for the principle of investing in improved facilities in Ulverston.
The consultation included meetings with 27 local clubs and groups, representing more than 1,200 members, using both the existing leisure facilities at Priory Road and the GSK sports centre in Ulverston. The consultants’ report says there was demonstrative evidence that clubs could grow and increase sports and health participation with better facilities.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) commissioned FMG Consulting Ltd to carry out the consultation and the next stage will be to examine further planning and financial considerations, including whether funding commitments from partners could be secured.
So far studies have established that new facilities could be successfully developed at Priory Road. Initial proposals that have been drawn-up include a brand new leisure centre building housing a swimming pool, gym, studio spaces, indoor tennis/multi-use hall, as well as a café, social and meeting spaces and outdoor facilities and sports pitches.
During the consultation other ideas were put forward by residents, including incorporating some running and cycling element in the scheme.
Another comment during the consultation, about accommodating a local roller derby team, has already resulted in the club being offered access to existing leisure facilities in Ulverston.
Councillor Chris Hogg, SLDC’s portfolio holder for Culture and Wellbeing, said: “We have had a very good response from local communities, stakeholders and partners to the proposals.
“This has the potential to secure the future of leisure provision in Ulverston and the surrounding area, and would improve the leisure offer and help people to live healthier and more active lives.
“We have even been able to help out the roller derby team after they contributed to the consultation and we are listening to everyone’s views as we look to develop the proposals.
“Leisure facilities that contribute to the wider quality of life for residents are critical to the future growth and success of Ulverston, the Furness peninsula and the wider South Lakeland District.’’
The facilities at Priory Road are run by leisure provider GLL on behalf of SLDC.
The council and GLL 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.
Further discussions will now take place about how the council and GSK could work together with other possible investment partners 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 pleased that so many people took part in the consultation and we have been interested to read the very positive responses to the proposals. It is clear that many people think this has the potential to be an exciting development for Ulverston.
“We are prepared to consider helping to fund a new sports centre. We are now looking forward to having further discussions about the proposals with SLDC and other possible investment partners. We will also be talking to GSK sports club users and other local stakeholders.’’
Derek Jones, Partnership Manager at GLL, said: “The consultation has demonstrated how important this proposal is to the local community. GLL are proud to support our partners South Lakeland District Council in developing this fantastic opportunity, whilst also ensuring that the current facilities cater for as many people as possible.
“Ulverston Leisure Centre continues to attract more and more people. A new modern leisure centre with new facilities not currently available can only add value to the people of Ulverston and beyond, supporting more sport, leisure and health improvement opportunities”.
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.