Funds have been agreed to further progress proposals for a multi-million pound new leisure centre in Ulverston.
Members of South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) Cabinet yesterday voted to allocate the money needed to investigate financing options and finalise designs for the ambitious plans.
If these further detailed assessments confirm the feasibility of the project it is hoped to replace the existing ageing facilities at Priory Road in Ulverston with a new £9 million leisure complex.
Proposing that the money be approved for the further assessments, Councillor Chris Hogg, SLDC’s Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure, said: “This is potentially a huge investment in Ulverston and a very important project for us.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the town and it would support our Council Plan objectives to help improve our residents’ health, get more people active and reduce health inequalities.’’
Seconding the recommendation, SLDC Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Andrew Jarvis reminded members that with such a significant investment there were also risks.
He said: “This is about securing and improving leisure facilities for Ulverston and potentially represents a major investment for the council as we would be responsible for up to two-thirds of the funding.
“The work that will now be undertaken will give us a better understanding of any potential risks so we can carefully examine them to ensure that the council delivers the best outcome.’’
Ulverston Councillor Janette Jenkinson also welcomed the development as ‘positive step’ and added: “I think Ulverston will be very supportive. The town is growing and new homes are planned very close to this site so it needs these facilities.’’
The current leisure facilities in Ulverston are run by operator 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 pharmaceutical company 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 its 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 could remain 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 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 if new facilities could be successfully developed at Priory Road they would contribute to SLDC’s Council Plan priorities to improve residents’ health and wellbeing, support the local economy and improve the environment.
The report to yesterday’s meeting of SLDC’s Cabinet recommended 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.
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.