This is incredible news! Mayor reacts to plans for new public swimming pool and hotel development in Sheringham
Sheringham Mayor David Gooch has welcomed plans for a new hotel and swimming pool development in the town - and then warned that if the community doesn’t back the proposals the area could be left with nothing.
North Norfolk District Council earlier this week revealed it is considering demolishing the ageing Splash Leisure and Fitness Centre and replacing it with a new state-of-the-art gym and pool complex.
And local authority-owned land neighbouring the site could be sold for a new hotel and commercial development to help pay for the £8 million project.
However, the council only has until March 2019 before its current leisure contract with Places for People, which also runs Fakenham Sports and Fitness, and Victory Swim and Fitness Centre in North Walsham, ends.
Mr Gooch said: “I believe it is incredible news for Sheringham. The facility now is unfortunately nearing the end of its useful life so something had to be done about it. They (district council) obviously had two options, one of which was to replace and the other of which would not leave us with a facilty at all in Sheringham.
“We no longer have a hotel and I was really excited when I saw that this was part of the proposals for the redevelopment of the site.”
But he added: “There is a lot of hard work still to do and a fairly short timespan.”
Initial details of the proposed plan were made public on Monday in papers to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which will meet on May 17.
Councillor Judy Oliver, North Norfolk District Council’s Cabinet Member for Property, said: “This is a highly imaginative and inspirational plan which has the potential to secure a long term future for Splash.
“We have great aspirations for leisure services across North Norfolk and the opportunity to build a modern, efficient and fit for purpose facility in one of our premier coastal towns is very exciting.”
Splash Leisure and Fitness Centre was opened by the late Diana Princess of Wales in May 1988 but, according to the council, is nearing the end of its life.
The council revealed it hasn’t ruled out refurbishing the pool but warned the move would not be cost effective because of the cost of heating the building, which is currently subsidised by taxpayers at a cost of £150,000 a year.
As government funding is slashed, it is envisaged the new building could attract up to £1 million of funding from Sport England and would not require any ongoing subsidies.
Nick Baker, North Norfolk District Council’s Corporate Director & Head of Paid Service, said: “The costs of Splash are very significant as they are now because of the historically poor design of the building. It’s a 30 year old building; we’re heating probably twice as much volume of building, which is thermally inefficient, than we would want to. With a much better design, those utility costs come down.
“There is space on the Splash site for other development - hotel, retail and commercial are all options for the land. For us this would be a supportive development to directly fund a future wet facility at Splash. And there are potential options with adjacent land being in that mix.”
The council confirmed it is unlikely a new leisure complex could be built before the current contract with Places for People ends - meaning Sheringham could be left without a pool for a period.
However, with hopes of finding a new contractor before the design of any new building is finalised and talks set to take place with neighbouring land owners over the future footprint of the site, which could also incorporate the current car park at the front of the current building, nothing is being ruled out.
Mr Baker said: “There is a real possibility, we could start building (a replacement leisure centre) if we had permission to do so and keep the existing one open. I think that would be difficult without additional land but that’s a possibility.”
Nevertheless he added: “I don’t think we’d have the new one built by the end of the current contract. We’re probably looking at two (or) two and a half years from here.”
The plans have been designed to guarantee ongoing provision of the popular skateboard, football and cricket facilities on the current and adjacent sites.
And the future of the leisure centres in North Walsham and Fakenham have also been assured, with the council confirming there are currently no plans for any changes there.
Councillor Maggie Prior, North Norfolk District Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, said: “The range of leisure opportunities across North Norfolk makes a significant contribution to improving the health and well-being of our residents.
“We want to improve Splash and give it a long term, viable future. It already attracts 160,000 visits a year and I believe that an improved facility would see this number increase, benefiting both our residents and the tourism economy, which is so crucial to this part of the world.”
Councillor Oliver, who represents Sheringham on both the district and county councils, added: “I welcome this plan wholeheartedly and welcome the input we have had from Sport England.”
What are your memories of Splash? Did you attend the official opening or visit over the last 30 years? We’d love to hear your experiences. Email all the details and any photographs you may have to: firstname.lastname@example.org