March 29, 2022 9.00 pm

Council rethinks Deepings Leisure Centre refurb after learner pool backlash

Council rethinks its refurbishment

The refurbishment of Deepings Leisure Centre could see a learner pool retained and the removal of a “moveable” floor after a rethink by South Kesteven District Council.

A consultation on the authority’s £10.7million plans for a full remodelling and refurbishment of the facility, known as Option C, saw 737 responses with the majority putting the emphasis on the 25 metre, six lane swimming pool and almost a quarter requesting the retention of the learner pool.

In response, SKDC asked its consultants to look again at the plans and came up with “Option D” which the authority’s Culture and Visitor Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be told next Tuesday will still equate to a full remodel and refurbishment of the centre.

A report before the committee puts the new option as the preferred one.

“The facilities included in Option D would still meet the evidenced need for leisure facilities in the Deepings area,” it said.

“However, it should be noted that the use of the second slightly smaller studio would be limited during periods of school examinations to prevent noise transference”

Further analysis is also being done on the depth of the pool to prevent it limiting the teaching of advanced swimming lessons.

Costs and income breakdowns of the new option are not included in the public documents but are disclosed in private papers.

The report, however, said: “On an annual basis the projections show that Option D generates slightly more income, however, higher costs are projected due to the additional staffing and utility cost implications of retaining the learner pool.”

Elsewhere in the consultation, 93% of respondents said they previously used the leisure centre – 57% frequently. A total of 84% said they would use the centre after the refurbishment.

South Holland and Deepings MP Sir John Hayes has also responded. He said it was imperative that the leisure centre should be refurbished as soon as possible to provide a range of facilities to the local community, with pricing remaining affordable.

Deepings Leisure Centre

Critics of the plans panned the removal of the learner pool and inclusion of the moveable floor, urging the authority to keep the former to enable the facility to continue to be used as a gala venue.

An alternative consultation was also launched by opposition members after SKDC’s own was felt to be lacking.

That work received 831 participants with 86% calling for the learner pool to be retained. Three quarters of them said a large concert hall/function room was needed and more than two thirds said the provision of 80 gym stations was too many.

Independent Councillor Ashley Baxter, one of those behind the plans, said it was “great news” if the council voted to retain the learner pool.

“I’m really pleased that the council has listened to the community and presented this further option,” he said.

He said the original option was a “backward step”.

“It’s a pity they needed to go through that [consultation] in order to find out what to many of us seemed bleeding obvious,” he added.

Fellow Independent Councillor Phil Dilks said residents had been “badly let down” around the Deepings Leisure Centre.

“Independent councillors told [leaders] at the time [of the original announcement] it was a crazy idea which would needlessly leave local people without any leisure facilities for three and a half years,” he said.

“Typically, they refused to listen and sadly it’s now cost local ratepayers £10,000 in consultancy fees – and further delays – before they’ve finally accepted the reality that the raised floor is a fantasy.”

Councillor Virginia Moran, another Independent, said she was “beyond delighted” by the new option.

“Make no mistake, if Deepings Independent Councillors hadn’t taken this fight on… it would now be a pile of rubble.

“We now have to continue ensuring that it actually happens and as quickly as possible.”

The scrutiny committee will be asked to decide a final way forward for the plans.

The report will then go to cabinet for a decision.