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New £13.5m pool is Worcester City Councillors’ preferred option
COUNCIL chiefs in Worcester say a £13.5 million swimming pool is their “preferred option” – but are going to hunt out developers in the hope it can be delivered at a better price for taxpayers.
A new in-house report has been published which recommends Worcester City Council’s decision-making cabinet aim for a ‘county standard’ pool fit to host major competitions as the top target.
The document is also asking for permission from councillors to start talking to private developers who can get on with drawing up a final price for the ambitious project.
As your Worcester News first revealed last week, independent experts say the city council is currently £5.2 million short of being able to afford the eight-lane, 25-metre pool, known as ‘option one’.
But leaders hope that by finding suitable developers for the facility, a bidding war could lower the cost.
Under a second option drawn up by consultants, the council would still have the alternative of building a six-lane, non-county standard pool for £10.7 million, with a current shortfall of £192,000.
But they are keen to select a developer who could provide eight lanes, and will also use the next few months to hunt for third parties prepared to fund any final funding gap. Councillor Jabba Riaz, cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “We are expecting a lot of healthy competition from the market place and hopefully, as a result of that, the price could come in lower.
“We’ve been very clear that this council’s affordability is £10.5 million and the quicker we can start the tendering process, so we can see what the deficit or difference in price is, the better.
“Both options are very much still open and we are still keen to see if there are other players out there who can contribute.”
The new report will be discussed by the cabinet next Tuesday, and will then go before a full council vote on Tuesday, March 26.
If the proposal is backed by a majority of councillors, senior officers will open talks with private developers.
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, with £500,000 added to the funding pot.
Both options would require borrowing, either £7.7 million or £10 million, which would be repaid over 40 years at four per cent interest.
As your Worcester News also revealed last week, talks have been held with the University of Worcester about contributing to the costs.