January 31, 2022 10.45 am This story is over 29 months old

Alternative Deepings Leisure Centre consultation launched after “slap in the face” official survey

“A wasted opportunity to rebuild confidence among residents”

Campaigners have launched an “alternative” consultation on the future of Deepings Leisure Centre after accusing South Kesteven District Council’s official survey of being “at best, a joke and, at worst, a slap in the face”.

Launched on Sunday, SKDC’s consultation follows the closure of the centre in July 2021 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 residents.

In December, the authority’s full council voted in favour of moving forward with a £10.7 million refurbishment, which included a full remodelling including reconfiguration of the main pool, expanded health and fitness gym, two new multi-use studios, a changing village, modification of the entrance area and refurb of the sports hall.

The council says the move would completely transform the interior, significantly improving facilities.

However, campaigners said they were disappointed with the “quality and depth” of the consultation – organised by private company Athene Communications on behalf of SKDC – and have launched their own.

They said SKDC’s consultation included a “very basic website” with only a single text box to suggest alternatives.

Campaigner and Independent Councillor for Market and West Deepings Ashley Baxter said: “These major works to the leisure centre are expected to last for the next 25 years.

“It is essential the community have a proper opportunity to influence how the money is spent.

“This survey is, at best, a joke and, at worst, a slap in the face for the Deepings.”

Councillor Baxter said the main pool revamp would reduce the amount of space available for swimmers, the removal of a learner pool was “ridiculous” and the number of gym stations was “excessive”.

“The survey makes no attempt to gather people’s views on these issues. The questions are basically asking for validation of what the council has been told by its remote advisors,” he said.

Councillor Ashley Baxter said the consultation was a “joke” at best. | Photo: South Kesteven District Council

Fellow Independent ward councillor Virginia Moran said the consultation was a “sham and a wasted opportunity to rebuild confidence among residents”.

“Generations of Deepings residents have used the existing leisure centre for swimming, football, roller-skating and other recreation activity,” she said.

“The consultants who have drawn up the refurbishment options have done so without any involvement from local clubs or individuals.”

Independent Councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks said plans to include a movable section of the pool had “caused some head-scratching”.

“Personally, I am angry that the council refused to get straight on with fixing the roof last summer rather procrastinating and paying for long-winded and grandiose ‘improvements’ that no-one ever asked for,” he added.

“We have already wasted six months and we are now told we have to wait another three years before we can all go swimming again. The whole episode is a disgrace”.

Campaigners hope their own parallel consultation will gather more evidence.

Chair of Deepings Business Club Andy Pelling said: “Given the council’s poor track record in engaging stakeholders, we anticipated the consultation might be weak.

“Consequently, we have prepared an alternative questionnaire in which we ask people more practical questions about the pros and cons of removing the learner pool, the proposed number of gym stations and their aspirations for the new leisure centre”.

Deepings Leisure Centre

A spokesperson at South Kesteven District Council said the authority was “committed to providing leisure facilities which our customers can be proud of, enabling them to lead healthy lives by participating in a wide range of activities”.

“We appreciate the disruption that the local community has experienced since the closure of the Deepings Leisure Centre, and the uncertainty there has been about the future of leisure provision in The Deepings.

“We are keen to hear everyone’s views, and we would encourage the community to share their thoughts by visiting the dedicated website and completing the survey.”

The council’s survey is available here, while printed copies are available at Deepings Community Library, Bourne Leisure Centre, and Stamford Leisure Centre.

The “unofficial” survey is available here.

The consultation ends February 28, 2022. SKDC has been contacted for comment on the alternative survey.