Previously on Leisure Centre Update…
>> In Oct 2017, SKDC Leader Cllr Leader Matthew Lee (Con) committed the Council to building a new Leisure Cente in the Deepings.
>> In Sept 2019, in response to a question I asked at Full Council, it was revealed that the preferred site for the new Leisure Centre would be the school playing fields North of Spalding Road in Deeping St James.
>> Since then, Deepings’ Independent Councillors, including me, have asked for Leisure Centre progress updates at every opportunity. Until January 2020 we received fairly regular progress reports. In February the new Cabinet Member for Leisure promised us monthly regular reports and since then we have received none.
>> Undeterred, I have continued to request documents and details relating to plans for the new leisure centre. These have all been delayed or denied even though the council rules, and the law of the land, suggest that I should be given them. I have managed to find some information via scrutiny of Council spending records and informal communication with Council Officers who I am sure are frustrated by the Conservative’s secretive attitude.
Inaccurate information from the Deputy Leader
On the evening of 30 July 2020, minutes before Deeping St James Parish Council (DSJ PC) meeting were due to discuss the plans, I received a phone call from SKDC Deputy Leader, Cllr Barry Dobson BA Hons (Con), who wished to have an informal chat about progress towards the Leisure Centre. He suggested, yet again, that it would be useful to have a meeting with me about the leisure centre to compare plans etc. He implied that he wished only to speak to me about the plans and not my Independent colleagues in the Deepings. The very next day I sent him a follow-up e-mail to say that I would be happy to meet him “anywhere and with anyone to discuss the plans if it means I actually get to see them and/or contribute positively to the dialogue”.
Surprise, surprise, there was no follow up e-mail or phone call from Cllr Dobson BA Hons which underlines my suspicion that he only phoned me in the first place to prevent an embarrassment at the July meeting of DSJ PC.
At last week’s DSJ PC meeting (27 August) Cllr Dobson did submit a report, in his capacity as LCC Cllr for DSJ, which appeared to offer some useful information as follows:.
“The Leisure Centre building itself will now be located entirely on LCC land and the artificial surface pitch. The Rugby Club pavilion will remain in situ providing approval is given to lose one football pitch. However, should this be approved, it is suggested that the Rugby Club improve the condition and appearance of their facility subject to SKDC/DSJPC approval”.
Make of those comments what you will but don’t spend too long worrying about them because when presenting Cllr Dobsons’s report (in his absence), the Chair of DSJ PC, Cllr Steve Gilbert began by stating clearly “Barry Dobson has issued a report; there are some inaccuracies in his report and we will clarify those with him at some later date”.
Cllr Dilks and I both tried to clarify which parts of Cllr Dobson’s report were perceived to be inaccurate or rather, whether any of his comments relating to the Leisure Centre were accurate. This was not possible.
The good news is: Deepings St James Parish Council has agreed, in principle, to allow SKDC to have a lease on (some of) its land in order to progress the delivery of leisure facilities at the site.
The site of the school fields is owned by the County Council and the Parish Council. The Parish owns and L-shape which starts at ‘Woody Heights’ skate park and runs East to the boundary of the rugby field and then down to the Bowls Club including some, but not all, of the current all-weather pitch (aka the ‘Astro’).
The school and the Parish Council have wanted to resolve this issue since at least 2011 but the recalcitrant attitude of the Lincolnshire County Council legal department has, until now, prevented any leases being signed. Since achieving Academy Status almost a decade ago, the Deepings School has been using the playing fields on the precarious legal basis of a ‘Tenancy at Will’. The rugby club has been operating with even less security of tenure.
Since the mid-1970s the fields have been used effectively as one unit by the school and by sports clubs. In the 1970s it was assumed that all the Councils were working together in the common public interest – Those were the days!. The grounds maintenance of the fields is funded entirely by residents of Market Deeping and Deeping St James as a designated Special Expense Area (SEA). The land used to be freely accessible to members of the community as an open space but, about five years ago, the school decided to put a perimeter fence to keep the children in and so-called trespassers out. The fence cost over £40,000. No adjustment has been made to the SEA to reflect that fact that Deepings residents can no longer freely access the fields they pay to maintain.
The important part of the decision by Deeping St James PC last week is that SKDC should now have sufficient confidence to engage consultants, partners and other professionals to further develop plans for the delivery of a new Leisure Centre as well as new All-Weather pitches.
Any sport you like, as long as it’s football
With regard to the All-Weather Pitch(es), the Council has budgeted £200,000 in this financial year for the replacement of the 30 year-old ‘astro’ which should have been repaired or condemned several years ago when the Bourne Deeping Hockey Club (BDHC) were forced, by safety concerns, to stop playing on it. It wasn’t until November 2019 that it was actually condemned after two injuries allegedly caused by its atrocious condition.
BDHC currently train in Peterborough where they also have to play their home games because there is no pitch available in the South of the SK District. Most of the training takes place in Glinton but because this is a school site, there is very limited access during the school holidays so the club misses out on the potential income and benefits of holiday clubs.
The cost of a new astro is estimated to be over £600,000, therefore SKDC will need to find additional income from other sources. The most likely funder is the Football Foundation who are rightly impressed by the success of Deepings growing new side, Deeping United who cater for almost all ages and abilities. Unfortunately, the artificial playing surface required for competitive adult hockey is not suitable for competitive adult football, and vice versa. Therefore, it is unlikely that a pitch funded by the Football Foundation would meet the needs of Bourne Deeping HC (established since the 1920s). Consequently, it seems the new leisure centre either needs two new pitches or the hockey club need to find a permanent new home.
Whether or not an artificial soccer pitch would be suitable for other other sports to train and compete (e.g. cricket, rugby, lacrosse, baseball, athletics etc) is an unknown. I’ve had lots of conversations about the pros and cons of, for example, ‘3G Rubber Crumb Filled Turf’ but I still don’t consider myself an expert!
Back in the Swim
One more piece of good news is that the pool at the existing Deepings Leisure Centre looks set to re-open next Monday 7 September 2020.
My daughter swims with the Deepings Swim Club, and lately her squad has been training in the wind and the rain. I think I can speak on behalf of all the parents when I say that, while we’re very grateful to the folks at Tallington Lakes, we can’t wait to get back indoors!