Radical plan to ditch new Halifax swimming pool and leisure centre 'not feasable'

A radical proposal to ditch plans to build a new leisure centre and swimming pool and instead refurbish the old buildings is a non starter, says a Cabinet member.

Saturday, 13th November 2021, 7:00 am
Artist impression of the new Halifax leisure centre and swimming pool

Leader of the opposition Conservative group on Calderdale Council, Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn) had urged the authority’s Cabinet to change tack on plans to build a new leisure centre with a swimming pool on the site of the existing one at North Bridge, Halifax.

Instead, and with a Government Levelling Up £12.2 million award for the project to take into account, Coun Leigh suggested the council should refurbish both the existing leisure centre and the now-closed Halifax Swimming Pool.

Coun Leigh argued this would save the council the cost of a new building and re-opening the old pool at Skircoat Road, Halifax, which the council has closed because it would cost too much to repair, would bring back into use a pool deep enough for some swimming groups to use.

The new plans have been controversial with national champions Halifax Synchronised Swimming Club leading a campaign to persuade the council to deepen the proposed new pool which they say could not be used by deep water swimmers as it stands.

But doing so would raise costs for the £24 million centre by another £2 million, councillors have been told.

Coun Leigh said terminology in the Government award referenced refurbishment of the swimming pool with some of the money needed to build a new centre having to be borrowed.

“From the £12.2 million we might well be able to afford the services in both the leisure centre and the swimming baths.

“Shouldn’t we think about that?

“We could save the best part of £24 million in extra borrowing and use the money that has come along to refurbish the two existing buildings.

“Hopefully, hat would make a difference to our finances and satisfy all the requirements of the residents of Calderdale that are presently complaining,” he said.

But Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said the application to the fund had set out what the money was going to be used for, in this case the new leisure centre.

“I think your suggestion that we re-purpose the grant we hope we are going to receive to refurbish the existing Halifax Pool, instead of doing what we told the Government we would do, which is put it towards the rising capital costs of our new leisure centre provision at North Bridge Leisure Centre, for all sorts of reasons we have gone into, that’s simply not going to be possible.

“It’s simply not feasible at this stage to go back to the drawing board in the way you are talking about,” she said.

Coun Leigh made is suggestion in debate while the council’s Cabinet was approving the council’s £138.9 million capital programme for 2021-22 to 2023-24, after Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) had spoken about challenges faced by councils up and down the country.

With inflation pushing up the cost of materials amid a shortage of labour and supply chain issues, contingencies had to be increased, potentially increasing the price of projects, although it was not yet clear whether there will be any delays, she said.

Earlier, in the public question time section of the Cabinet meeting, several members of the public urged Cabinet members to use the Levelling Up Fund money to deepen the proposed new pool.

Coun Lynn said the council had yet to receive the formal letter from the Government setting out its requirements – and it was not an unexpected “windfall” as one questioner suggested but to help the council to meet the considerable costs of the project.

“Until that is received it is not appropriate for us to commit to make a commitment about redesigning anything,” she said.

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