“Heart-broken” residents could get a £10.7million refurbishment of the Deepings Leisure Centre after accusations council leaders had “lied” flew across South Kesteven District Council’s chamber on Tuesday.
A meeting of the authority’s joint scrutiny meeting on Tuesday examined a series of options for the leisure centre which was closed in July after rainwater leaks in the roof caused safety concerns, with councillors U-turning on a decision to make the closure permanent after a backlash from local residents.
Councillors on Tuesday instead voted to recommend moving forward on “Option C” which would cost £10.663 million.
If approved it will see the centre undergo a full remodelling and refurbishment including reconfiguration of the main pool, a new health and fitness gym, two new studios, a changing village, modification of the entrance area and refurbishment of the sports hall.
Residents were given the chance to speak before the meeting. Eileen Grey, a resident and user for 40 years, said: “When the leisure centre closed, 40 years of my life was taken away from me. I’m heart-broken this has happened.”
Robbie Tyler, who runs a martial arts club said: “The closure of DLC has impacted our club massively. Without it we can’t do a lot of the things we were.”
“A lot of opportunities have been missed and the people in the Deepings are crying out for it.”
Conservative Councillor Barry Dobson told the committee: “Investing in high quality leisure facilities across the district is a key part of this council’s ambition.”
“Whilst a new build for the Deepings area was once a possibility this is sadly no longer the case.”
He said there had been a “drastic” reduction in income and finances were “under pressure”. “We must align our diminished resources for all residents across the district.”
Independent Councillor Phil Dilks accused the leadership of making untrue statements on election campaign leaflets.
He said the council had “continued to throw money at a fantasy smoke and mirrors sham” despite being told in reports that new builds were unfeasible.
“The people of the Deepings have been very patient and without their passion and support the original recommendations to close the centre and walk away would already have been implemented.
“The people of Deepings had been let down. They have been lied to and they have been betrayed.”
Independent Councillor Ashley Baxter said he was “furious and disappointed” and told Councillor Dobson: “That was a lie on your leaflet.”
The comment sparked calls for an apology and for the statement to be withdrawn.
Councillor Dobson responded that despite new build funding being previously agreed, it was no longer possible due to funding issues, and adding a new build would “create ongoing financial pressure”.
He added: “I do not tell untruths, I do what is best for everyone and I do what is right for everyone.”
He added: “The question Councillor Baxter wanted to say – I do take absolute exception to and I will not answer.”
Conservative council leader Kelham Cooke, noting the impact of COVID-19, said: “It has been an ambition to replace the leisure centre but […] quite simply the investment in the leisure market has diminished.”
Councillors were warned savings would have to be made in the budget to afford the costs, as well as potential council tax increases.
Councillor Stokes said: “To facilitate [a refurbishment] we’re going to have to make decisions and these are going to be decided by full council. It’s not going to be an easy decision.”
Conservative Councillor Mark Whittington said: “For a variety of reasons the people of Deepings have been let down by SK, LCC and others, and I do think we need to be as reasonably ambitious as we can.”