Great news! The Council has announced new exciting new leisure centres for the Deepings and Stamford. Brilliant, fabulous, fantastic… but technically this is old news as it was also announced in October 2017 and again in October 2018.
As predicted in my previous blog concerning the new Deepings Leisure Centre, it’s now just eight weeks before the District Council elections and South Kesteven has announced ‘further details’ of new leisure centres with a blaze of publicity.
The Conservatives want everyone to know that they are planning new leisure centres in Stamford and the Deepings and a refurbished and enhanced leisure centre in Bourne. The publicity has included a double-paged spread in SK Today, almost three pages in the Stamford Mercury, umpteen tweets and other social media posts and, to top it all, 6 massive banners parading the exciting new facilities “delivered by South Kesteven District Council”. The irony is that nothing has really been delivered yet except for the posters.
I attended the South Kesteven Cabinet meeting last Thursday where a report on the new approach to sports and leisure facilities was formally approved. I wanted to ask the questions that everyone else is asking me. Here’s a summary of the questions I asked and the answers I was given:
Q. Where will the leisure centres be built?
A. “A number of potential sites for the new leisure centre have been identified but due to commercial sensitivity the locations remain confidential at this time”. (i.e. We don’t know!)
Q. What is the anticipated timescale for agreeing (and announcing) the preferred site?
A. As long as it takes but hopefully not too long. (i.e. We don’t know!)
The publicity states the new pool will be 25m and 6 lanes i.e. the same size as the pool we’ve had for 40 years. This is not big enough to meet the competing needs of the local schools, the Swim School (with more than 1,000 students), the Deepings Swimming Club and, of course, the general public.
Q. Would it not make more sense to build a larger pool in order that it can more easily be divided to accommodate concurrent uses?
A. The plans for the centre are not set in stone and will be subject to further consultation to ascertain the needs of the community.
Q. Will there be a suitably sized spectator area?
A. Yes, the popularity and success of the Deepings Swimming Club is recognised and the Council wishes to ensure its continued success.
When I worked at Nottingham City Council I was involved in the design of a new leisure centre. The original project was all bells and whistles but, by the time the bean counters had carried out a ‘value engineering’ assessment, many of the environmental and energy efficiency features were withdrawn. Even some of the most basic technologies such as pool covers were only retained after a battle.
Q. Will the new leisure centres use best available technologies e.g. in terms of eco-design?
A. Yes, the Leader and Deputy Leader have visiting several recently constructed leisure centres in order to ensure they recognise the best standards of design.
Q. How will the centre be managed: by an in-house council team?; by the private sector?; or by a charitable trust?
A. All options are being explored but the establishment of a charitable trust appears to be financially advantageous for reasons of business rates and /or tax. (i.e. We don’t know!)
Q. What will happen to the existing Deepings leisure centre?
A. This has yet to be decided. (i.e. We don’t know!)
Q. What about outdoor sports like football and hockey?
A. It is proposed the new Deepings Leisure Centre will have an all-weather 3G pitch suitable for many different activities of continuous usage. The Leader said he is keen to ensure that the Sports Strategy encompasses all types of sports.
The report also mentions the need for a Sports and Physical Activity Strategy and a Cycling Strategy. The latter will be delivered by cycling charity Sustrans but will initially only apply to Grantham.
Q. Why doesn’t the proposed development of a SKDC cycling strategy apply to the Deepings which has fewer hills and quieter roads than Grantham, as well as a secondary school of 1,500 where fewer than 30 pupils cycle regularly to school.
A. Sustrans advised that Grantham is the appropriate place to start. Hopefully lessons will be learned which will be applicable across the district.Q.
Now, in the style of Columbo, I’ve got just one more question…
Eight weeks before the elections, despite the lack of detail regarding location, design, cost… despite the fact that no land has been purchased, no planning application has been submitted and no bricks have been laid… the Council has put up 6 massive posters (2 at each of Bourne, Stamford and Deeping Leisure Centres declaring
“Exciting new leisure centres… delivered by South Kesteven District Council.”
Q. How much did these banners cost?
A. The six banners cost £7769.65
In my opinion, that’s a waste of money!