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£13.5m swimming pool under threat
SHOULD Worcester cut corners for a new multi-million pound swimming pool – or go all-out to build a ‘county standard’ facility?
That is the question being posed in a report which spells out for the first time the options for creating a pool of which to be proud.
A business case has been published which details the pros and cons of what Worcester City Council can expect for its money.
The key findings are: A county-standard site featuring an eight-lane, 25-metre pool would cost £13.5 million, but there is a massive £5.2 million shortfall in finding ways to fund the gap.
A second, scaled down option for a smaller facility has been drawn up featuring a 25-metre, six lane pool, which has a shortfall of £192,000.
Both options would require borrowing – of either £7.7 million or £10 million.
Whatever option is backed, the city council is preparing to sell the current site of Worcester swimming pool in Sansome Walk, and will invest £500,000 from the sale in the new pool.
Both options are forecast to make a profit, whereas the existing leisure centres in Sansome Walk and Perdiswell lose a combined £324,000 yearly.
The business case, compiled independently, says the final option will have to be decided by the council, but adds the scaled-down facility is “very close to being affordable”.
It also calls for a clear decision to be made quickly to avoid expensive delays or the risk of higher prices for design fees.
If they back the £13.5 million pool they would need to decide on ways of funding the £5.2 million gap, which could come from a combination of lottery funding, other grant bids or higher council tax.
Under the plan, the new pool would be open by early 2016 and once it is in operation, the Sansome Walk site would be demolished and sold off. The two-acre Sansome Walk site has a 25-metre, six-lane pool, so the main difference be-tween that and option two is the gym, which would be four times as big.
The report will be debated by the performance, management and budget scrutiny committee on Tuesday, from 7pm at the Guildhall.
Feedback will then go to the cabinet in March, and finally on to full council on Tuesday, March 26.
Councillor Jabba Riaz, cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said it was an “exciting” time, adding: “In terms of aspirations for the city, some might say we should go for a county standard swimming pool. There are concerns on affordability – there is no unified opinion either way yet.”
Neil Monkhouse, chairman of Worcester Swimming Club, said: “We’ve got to travel to Wolverhampton for competitions – it’s not good enough for a city the size of Worcester. We desperately need a county-standard pool to create a true Olympic legacy, we must get it right.”