Proposals for detailed work to start on plans for a multi-million pound new leisure centre in Ulverston are due to be discussed by councillors.
South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) Cabinet will receive a report on 10 September that outlines the next steps in the ambitious leisure centre scheme.
This will include a further stage of development work to finalise the design, facilities and funding applications.
The plan is to replace the ageing facilities at Priory Road in Ulverston, that are run by leisure provider GLL on behalf of SLDC.
The council and GLL have been developing plans for a new leisure centre and facilities on the site, which were also influenced by GSK’s plans to relocate its sports centre as part of a proposed redevelopment of its site on North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston. The council and GLL discussed with GSK how they may work together on a single new sports facility to maximise the benefits for Ulverston.
GSK announced in July last year that it had changed its position on the development of the Ulverston site, a decision that also had a significant bearing on the future of the new sports centre project.
Over the past year discussions have continued between the council and GSK to see whether the project could still be progressed and GSK has confirmed it will contribute £2 million to the Ulverston sports centre plans to support improvements in health and wellbeing for the community.
That funding commitment means the overall project remains viable and the next stage of the project can still move forward, although the scale and affordability of the proposal has had to be revised as the projected overall budget has reduced from £12.9 million to £9.2 million.
The revised proposals to be considered by Cabinet still include a brand new sports centre housing a six-lane, 25 metre swimming pool, a sports hall with four indoor courts, a gym, sauna, two muti-use studios and a meeting room, while outside facilities would include a full size hockey pitch, two outdoor tennis courts, bowling green, four grass pitches and a seven-a-side 3G pitch.
The new proposals suggest two indoor tennis courts, a full-size 3G pitch and an outdoor adventure play area are not now included, but that the outdoor tennis courts could be covered by an ‘air hall’, to allow flexible year-round use, and that the full-size 3G pitch could be considered as part of a second phase of improvements.
In the sports centre itself the gym would be slightly smaller, with room for 60 exercise stations instead of the original 65, the multi-use studios would also be reduced in size, there would only be one meeting room instead of the two in the original design and the proposed café would be replaced with vending machines in the foyer.
The result means the overall size of the sports centre can be reduced and, coupled with the removal of some outdoor facilities, the new leisure centre complex could still be achieved within the revised £9.2 million budget.
Studies have already established that new facilities could be successfully developed at Priory Road and would contribute to SLDC’s Council Plan priorities to improve residents’ health and wellbeing, support the local economy and improve the environment.
A report to the 10 September meeting of SLDC’s Cabinet is recommending another stage of development work is now undertaken to include further public consultation on the revised proposals, as well as finalising the designs and costs.
The report says: “There is a reasonable prospect of the capital requirements of the scheme being met by a combination of borrowing supported by the business plan, use of capital receipt from the release of the existing pool site, council contribution through capitalisation of maintenance liabilities faced on the existing facilities and capital support from GSK and grant support from Sport England.’’
Nearly 1,000 residents and members of local sports clubs and groups representing 1,200 members responded to a consultation at the end of 2016 on the original proposals to redevelop the leisure facilities in Ulverston.
The responses showed overwhelming support for the principle of investing in improved facilities in Ulverston and a consultants’ report concluded there was demonstrative evidence that clubs could grow and increase sports and health participation with better facilities.