'Time is too tight' to redesign new Halifax swimming pool and leisure centre
Although the council has received a £12.2 million Levelling Up Fund award to help pay for the new multi-million pound centre at North Bridge, Halifax, restraints in how and when it has to be spent mean it is unlikely the pool dimensions will change, said Calderdale Council’s Deputy Leader Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot).
She said council officers had already had “a number of conversations with civil servants” regarding the fund and the issue would be raised again later this month when the memorandum of understanding for the money would be signed.
But she said: “The project is extremely finely balanced in terms of both affordability and the ability for construction to be completed in line with the criteria – as such, large scale changes are extremely problematic.
“There is limited flexibility with regard to the delivery milestones…we don’t expect this position to change although the issue will be raised.”
Coun Scullion, who is Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, was asked in the public question time section of this week’s Cabinet meeting if there was time to make changes by
Kirsty McGregor, who is a parent and a team manager at Halifax Synchronised Swimming Club.
Since the council’s decision to close Halifax Swimming Pool at Skircoat Road, citing uneconomic repair, the club has been concerned the new pool depth will not be deep enough for their, and other, deep water sports.
At November’s full Calderdale Council meeting the issue of Hebble Brook running eight metres under the site, on which the current North Bridge Leisure Centre sits, was alluded to as a reason for complications.
Cabinet has said the council could not afford to make the changes, which would add £2 million to the cost of the project.
The club said it could be paid for from the Levelling Up award but Cabinet says the timescale is too tight.
Ms McGregor asked Coun Scullion: “You said at Cabinet that the Levelling Up grant was restricted to ‘shovel ready’ projects and any redesign for new facilities such as deep water could delay the start of the new leisure centre, that it puts receipt of the grant into jeopardy.
“However, i was under the impression that they key date for funding of such projects is less the anticipated start date but more the completion date of the project?
“Even if you haven’t yet had terms of the grant in writing, will you commit to at least speaking to the Department to inquire whether there can be a slight delay in the start date of the bill so that these improvements can be potentially implemented without endangering the grant offer, so we know whether this concern is valid or not?”
Coun Scullion said she wanted to make it clear eligibility for Levelling Up monies is restricted to projects which first deliver some levelling-up related expenditure, including project development, in 2021-22, in which the last few months are approaching, and the money should all be spent by March 2024.
“The council is obliged to complete the works within the conditions of the grant funding and is in line with the business case originally submitted to acquire the money.
“The council committed to a number of specific outcomes as part of the funding bid and is assessed by Government through a monitoring evaluation framework as to whether they have been achieved.
“The council may incur penalties or indeed ‘clawback’ if it is unable to achieve those outcomes,” she said.
Coun Scullion said the project design for the Halifax Leisure Centre is at an extremely advanced stage, including the majority of architectural work, and changing the design at this stage would require significant redesign time, would add significantly to the cost and might require further planning permission.
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