Proposed changes to watersport offer at Pugneys Country Park
Changes to the way watersports are provided at Pugneys Country Park could be on the cards as Wakefield Council’s key decision makers consider a proposal at the next Cabinet meeting.
At the moment Wakefield Council provides the watersport operation at the park but low customer demand of around 30 regular users, difficulties recruiting qualified staff and a restricted offer means that the watersports centre requires significant financial subsidy from the Council and is not commercially viable or sustainable in its current format.
A report going to Cabinet on 13 February proposes that the Council suspend providing watersports, enabling other qualified providers to hire the facility instead and offer their own watersport activity. Organised clubs and groups, who meet the necessary hire conditions, will still be able to use Pugneys lake and charity events like the annual Rotary Dragon Boat Race can continue to take place at Pugneys.
Cllr Jacquie Speight, Cabinet Member for Sport, Culture and Leisure said: “Many people will be aware of the difficulties we have had recruiting suitably qualified staff to provide adequate safety cover on the water. Sadly this situation hasn’t changed which means we cannot currently provide the type of watersports offer people may want, especially in the summer months, nor can we improve the offer to attract more customers.
“The current watersport operation has to be heavily subsidised from our budget, which is simply no longer sustainable. In the recent budget consultation residents said that they want to see the Council work more commercially to help us protect services and meet the huge financial challenges we are faced with. So we need to be prepared to do things differently.
“This proposal opens up an opportunity for other organisations to essentially ‘rent’ the water and provide their own watersport operation, and has the potential to result in a much improved offer, attracting more visitors.
“The proposed changes would not affect organised clubs and groups who meet the hire conditions, as they would still be able to hire use of the lake. As these make up the majority of the people who access watersports at Pugneys the changes will not affect too many people.
“We will, of course, continue supporting organised charity events to take place at Pugneys and will work with all our regular clubs and groups to support them with any new arrangements.”
The Council remains committed to continue developing the offer at Pugneys, which is popular with walkers, visitors to the nature reserve and with families. Any changes to the watersports operation will not affect the rest of the activities on offer at the Country Park.
The lake at Pugneys is currently closed due to high levels of bacteria found during routine water testing. As a precautionary measure all watersport activity is currently suspended and people must keep out of the water. Dog owners have also been advised to keep their pets out of the water. Wakefield Council is working with the Environment Agency to locate the source of the problem.
The report will be discussed by senior councillors at the Cabinet meeting on 13 February, starting at 10.30am. People can watch it on Wakefield Council’s website live or later at www.wakefield.gov.uk/livestream