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Southwell residents express their views on the future of Southwell Leisure Centre at a public meeting

Around 100 people have agreed to work together to get a 60-year-old swimming pool repaired after rejecting a £5.5m new pool.

A public meeting took place on Wednesday (May 22) to hear Southwell residents’ views on the future of the town’s leisure centre.

It followed Newark and Sherwood District Council’s cabinet agreeing withdraw its £5.5m funding offer for a new pool and seek to hand the centre’s operations back to the Southwell Leisure Centre Trust by exiting its lease, following widespread opposition to the proposal.

Southwell Leisure Centre.
Southwell Leisure Centre.

At Wednesday’s meeting town councillor Peter Harris read a statement from the trustees, saying they remained committed to its objective to provide health and leisure facilities.

It reads: “The trustees recognise the importance of the new trustee group reflecting the diverse needs of the local population. We must ensure a mix of genders, different age groups and particularly representation by people with disabilities so that future facilities are accessible for everyone.

“We hope that the process of negotiating the termination of the lease will proceed smoothly and amicably. We know that all parties have the speedy restoration of all leisure centre facilities, in a long-term sustainable way, as their principal aim.”

The district council has agreed to give £497,000 to the trust to cover the trust’s estimate for the repair of the pool – which has a significant leak – and essential works to the dry-side facilities.

Residents suggested raising funds to support the Southwell Leisure Centre Trust so that they have the means to repair and maintain the leisure centre as it was revealed at the meeting that the trust currently has less than £500.

It was agreed at the meeting to focus on repairing the pool and getting the leisure centre back for the community – while not forgetting the idea of building a new pool and leisure centre in the future.

Mr Harris said: “There may be an opportunity in the future to get capital for a new pool, my concern has always been that have been seven months without a repair and if we can get a repair for a short-term, let’s use that time to develop plans for a new pool and generate the material to go for capital funding.

“This is the start of a long journey and as a community, we are capable of doing it, it won’t be an easy road but it is possible to do it.”

Laura, a physiatrist who works with children with disabilities said: “It is a tremendous shame we lost the ability to build a pool that has disability access and disability fitting rooms. We are supposed to represent the community and we are not.”

She asked the council to use some of the money provided by the district council to invest in better facilities for disabled people at the current pool.

Emma Pay, who has a disabled child, told the meeting how her daughter’s one-on-one lessons – vital to her well-being – had been stopped. Instead, she had been told to pay private lesson costs.

She said: “Anybody who has a disabled child knows very well you don’t have that kind of money. That should factor into what we are doing, I don’t know if it can be adapted in any way, make it accessible for all while still retaining the competition side of the pool which is still important for the users.

“I just want the community back into our pool.”

Newly-elected trust chairman Phil Barron answered: “I will do my utmost to ensure that the disabilities get quality and services after this.”

Sally Reynolds said: “I go to the leisure centre on a regular basis to use the dry side activities and this is all being very focused on the pool but actually the leisure centre is really really well patronised and there are quite a lot of us here who go on a regular basis.

“We are at risk potentially of losing our leisure centre.”

Another Southwell resident added: “We have been talking all the time about repairing the pool, the pool is perfect, it is about replacing 50 metres of pipe and we are talking about a maximum of a quarter of a million pounds versus some figure of £5.5 million for a new pool.

“For God's sake, let’s stop the talking and get those 50 metres replaced.”

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