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Friends of Southwell Swimming Pool welcome Newark and Sherwood District Council’s decision to remove £5.5million funding offer

A group which has been campaigning for the repair of a town’s swimming pool has welcomed the removal of a £5.5million plan for a new facility.

The decision made to remove the funding — and instead offer the Southwell Leisure Centre Trust (SLCT) £497,000 for a pool repair and dryside maintenance, conditional to the council exiting the leisure centre lease — has been received positively by Friends of Southwell Swimming Pool (FOSS).

FOSS now says it will “do everything they can to assist the Trustees of SLCT to bring Southwell Leisure Centre back to being a vibrant centre for the people of Southwell and surrounding villages” following the deal, made at May 14’s Newark and Sherwood District Council’s cabinet meeting.

Southwell Leisure Centre.
Southwell Leisure Centre.

Its main pool has been closed for seven months, after a serious leak led to its closure on safety grounds in October 2023.

The leisure centre could also be owned and run by the community in the future, with the idea being explored by the group.

FOSS stated: “FOSS and SLCT are exploring the possibility of Southwell Leisure Centre becoming a community-owned and run leisure centre, as these can offer a multitude of benefits that positively impact both individuals and the broader community. Economically, they keep revenue within the local area, supporting jobs and promoting economic growth, while often operating more cost-effectively than privately or publicly run centres. Socially, these centres foster a strong sense of community pride and engagement, providing volunteer opportunities and promoting social inclusion by offering programmes for diverse groups.

“FOSS also looks forward to the Southwell Leisure Centre Trust and NSDC working together to successfully negotiate the end of the lease which binds them — and funding the repairs to the existing swimming pool pipework as soon as possible. With the appointment of a board of independent, committed and skilled trustees at SLCT, we fully believe that there is every reason for us to be able to create some medium/long term plans to enhance and extend our leisure centre to include a brand-new swimming pool facility for town.”

The group’s support for the funding removal comes as it ends a “stalemate between the district council and Southwell Leisure Centre Trust”, which emerged as the the council’s condition for the trust’s land to be handed over in exchange for the planned new £5.5million facility faced a number of challenges.

Prior to the funding removal, five months after the money was initially committed, the trust agreed to hand over the land, but the council’s documents stated the agreement arrived late and “with some resistance and reluctance” did “not bode well for the next steps of progressing freehold transfer with the Charity Commission and subsequent construction of a new pool”. As a result the funding was withdrawn.

FOSS also remains in the belief that the council did not properly investigate the various options for repairing the leaking swimming pool pipework — as its quote for repair was £645,000 versus the trustees £250,000 quote.

It has also slammed the lack of a feasibility study or initial design concepts “which could have given the people of Southwell and the surrounding villages more confidence” in the proposals. At the cabinet meeting, this was explained as being due to the council’s unwillingness to spend taxpayer money prior to securing the land for the pool.

Also at the cabinet meeting, leader Paul Peacock stated the council did look at all options for repair when questioned by Roger Jackson, and that he believed the council’s quote from a reputable company was about right.

What do you think? Let us know your views in the comments below…

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