Posted: 18.08.21 at 15:14 by The Editor
Deepings Swimming Club has welcomed a decision to defer a vote to permanently close Deepings Leisure Centre following an emergency cabinet meeting of South Kesteven District Council. It will now be discussed further at a full council meeting on September 2nd.
The club submitted a statement to the council, which was read out by SKDC leader Kelham Cooke, who used to train at the leisure centre pool.
The club's statement acknowledged the extent of the disrepair but added: “The fact the building’s condition has been allowed to deteriorate to this extent is not our swimmers’ fault and has done nothing over the many years of decline to inhibit their dreams or reduce their aspirations. Indeed, it would be fair to say these have been heightened still further by events at the Tokyo Olympics.”
The statement concluded: “As a club we do not exist without a pool to train in, and we would not be Deepings Swimming Club without a home in the Deepings. We welcome plans for a new facility but, in the short term, a 2024 refresh of the local plan, allocating a potential build site for a new facility is simply too far away to ensure our club’s survival.”
Sam Peeroo, Deepings Swimming Club development officer, thanked councillor Cooke for reading out the statement.
“We were also delighted that our request for the decision to be deferred was listened to, and the proposed ‘decision’ motion amended accordingly,” she said.
“But, with the likely date for the decision being taken at a full council meeting on 2nd September, it really doesn’t give anyone, councils or community, much time to address the issues that led us to ask for a delay in the first place. This includes seeking information on the full financial, health and social implications in respect of the Council’s decision.”
Three independent councillors from the Deepings, Virginia Moran, Phil Dilks and Ashley Baxter, were joined by Ian Stygall, a representative from the local campaign group Save the Deepings Leisure Centre which has more than 2,000 members to argue the case against closing the leisure centre.
Each made impassioned pleas to the council to reject a report recommending the immediate closure of the leisure centre, urging them instead to invest the money in repairing the roof.
Mr Stygall said: “A new leisure centre is at least five years away. The existing leisure centre just needs the money that is owned to our community spending on it to rectify the immediate issues, getting our perfectly adequate facility opened up again.”
A report authored by SKDC head of leisure Karen Whitfield, reviewed by chief executive Karen Bradford and signed off by deputy leader councillor Barry Dobson suggested that the cost of repairing the leisure centre would be just under £1.2 million.
However, this cost included car park resurfacing, a new passenger lift and external decoration, none of which are health and safety issues, the reason given by the council for the immediate closure of the facility.
Sam Peeroo said: “The report suggests the Council is facing a repair bill of £1.2m. But not all of the items listed relate to the minimum health and safety concerns that need addressing to reopen the building. Moreover, the costings have not been subject to competitive tender and they have not been counterbalanced against the potentially huge cost of mothballing or demolition of the facility.”
Mrs Bradford told the SKDC cabinet that she had recently visited the leisure centre and was “shocked and horrified” at its condition. She admitted that it was the responsibility of the local authority to carry out all maintenance costing more than £500 and that the work “has not been done”, but suggested it would now take more than 12 months to complete the repairs.
However, both the estimated cost and the repair time were described by councillor Virginia Moran as a “scare tactic”.
She added: “It could be open within weeks for half the cost.”
Cllr Phil Dilks called the proposals a “disastrous double whammy”.
He said: “I welcome the amendment put forward in the face of massive outrage. I appeal to you to reject the report - pulling the plug on our swimming pool and leisure centre could actually cost more.”
Attention was drawn to North Kesteven District Council, which recently invested £5m on a refurbishment of the North Hykeham leisure centre in Lincoln, a similar facility to the Deepings building.
Coun Cooke concluded the meeting by inviting all members of SKDC to visit Deepings Leisure Centre prior to the full council meeting on September 2nd to assess the condition of the building for themselves.