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Let people have say on new pool
6:13pm Friday 1st March 2013 in News
CALLS are being made for a referendum so the public can have their say over two options for building a new multi-million pound swimming pool in Worcester.
Labour’s finance spokesman, Richard Boorn, has called for a proper consultation over whether bosses should try to meet a £5.2 million funding gap in creating a county-standard pool. There are suggestions that the referendum be staged at the same time as the Worcestershire County Council elections in May to keep the cost down.
As your Worcester News first revealed on Wednesday, an independent report says that the city cannot afford the £13.5m facility unless it finds ways of bridging the blackhole.
The report does suggest an alternative of building a scaled-down, non-competition standard pool cos-ting £10.7m, which has a much smaller shortfall of £192,000.
The city council has already held public consultations, but not since the publication of the detailed options.
Councillor Boorn said: “We’ve got county council elections in May and this might be the ideal time for a referendum to ask people what they think.
“We’ve now got the two options on the table and we need to know what the taxpayers think. It is such an important issue, we need to do it properly.”
Coun Adrian Gregson, the Labour group leader, asked: “What’s the desire for a pool at the existing Sansome Walk site, or the desire for it on another site, and to what level or standard do people want?
“This is a major issue. It will cost a lot of public money and if people don’t want to use it, the risk is that we’ll end up with a white elephant.”
Both options require borrowing of either £7m or £10m which would be repaid over 40 years at a four per cent interest rate.
Coun Simon Geraghty, city council leader, has said he is keen to include other players who may be prepared to help contribute towards the funding gap for a county-standard pool.
“Our affordability envelope is clear, it’s £10.5 million – that is what this city council can provide on its own,” he said. Other contributors could include the University of Worcester, which has already held discreet conversations with the council about the scheme , or even the NHS on the basis that a top class pool could help tackle obesity.
A £13.5m facility would come with an eight-lane, 25-metre pool fit to host regional races, compared to only six lanes for a £10.7m pool.
Under either proposal, the pool at Sansome Walk would be demolished and the land sold with £500,000 being added to the funding pot.
Sansome Walk pool currently has six lanes with critics suggesting that the scaled-down option sho-uld be ignored on the basis that it would be newer, but not better.