Next step in Wakefield’s review of leisure services goes to Cabinet for approval

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Date:10/09/2015

A new multi-purpose leisure centre for the Five Towns could be one-step closer if Wakefield's Cabinet give the go-ahead for feasibility study to get underway.

In a report going to Cabinet on September 22 the Council's key decision makers are being asked to approve the commissioning of a feasibility study for a new Pontefract Park based facility, which would replace the existing facilities in Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley.

The report also recommends that officers explore the future management of all the Council's leisure facilities to try to ensure the district has financially sustainable leisure provision to meet people's future needs.

The Leisure Fundamental Service Review was launched in 2014 in response to the deteriorating condition of the district's leisure facilities and the Council's unprecedented financial situation following massive and continued cuts to the local authority's budget.

Wakefield Council currently runs two leisure centres in Wakefield at Sun Lane and Thornes Park, and five others in Normanton, Featherstone, Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley. A new swimming pool is being built in the south east to replace the Minsthorpe Pool, which closed in 2013. The project is in the final design stages and remains on track for opening in 2017.

In December last year the Regeneration and Economic Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended that a new leisure centre should be built in Pontefract Park to replace the poor quality facilities in Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley.

Cllr Les Shaw, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport said: "We know that the leisure facilities in the Five Towns are in urgent need of repair.

Building a brand new facility at Pontefract Park would help us deal with this and meet the needs of the people in this part of the district. Our residents deserve modern high-quality leisure facilities and we want to ensure this is delivered.

"However it is equally important that we take into account our budget situation that has seen our finances relentlessly decimated by the Government over the last five years. So far we have seen £119m wiped off our budget. This is going to continue so we must explore how we can make all our facilities financially sustainable to ensure they are future proof as well as fit for purpose.

"We must identify the best way to do this, which is why we want officers to explore all possible management options. There are numerous ways of doing this, which include keeping the management in-house, trust management or a joint venture where the Council retains control but an external company runs the facilities under contract.

"We have to - and we will -safeguard leisure provision in the district as it is a vital element of our health and well-being. But what is clear is that whether the future management is done by us or someone else it must be done differently."

If given the go-ahead by Cabinet on September 22 the feasibility study would take around five months to complete once the contract is awarded. The work to explore the future management options would run parallel to the Pontefract Park feasibility study but with a separate timescale for completion.

The feasibility study will fully assess all aspects of the proposal to build the new leisure centre in Pontefract Park. It will look at the impact on the local community and environment, identify the type of facilities people want and need to use, examine travelling times, transport links and accessibility and the resources needed to deliver the project.

Cllr Les Shaw added: "The feasibility study will give us an independent and robust assessment of the proposal. I understand that some people will have strong views on this and we will be keen to hear their comments once this is up and running."

The Cabinet meeting takes place at 10.30am on Tuesday 22 September and is being held at The Hepworth Wakefield as part of the Council's Cabinet on Tour programme. The meeting is also available to view online at www.wakefield.gov.uk/yoursay