Council slammed over Rasen leisure centre plans

The proposed centre
The proposed centre
  • New twist to saga of £6.3m scheme

A planning consultancy has written a four-page letter to West Lindsey District Council slamming its proposals for a £6.3m leisure centre in Market Rasen - and now the authority has responded in an extraordinary way.

WLDC has this week taken the unusual step of releasing a statement to the public addressing concerns raised over its planning application for the centre off Gainsborough Road.

The council’s statement, prepared by global management consultancy WYG, seeks to address ‘key objections and concerns’ raised during the consultation period which started in mid-November.

The move comes after planning and development consultancy Aspbury Planning submitted a four-page objection letter to WLDC as part of that consultation process.

Aspbury Planning senior planner Caroline Richardson - writing to the district council on behalf of her client Mr R Nickerson - says the development should not go ahead.

Ms Richardson says the proposal is ‘contrary to the 2017 adopted Development Plan’ and claims six applications have previously been refused planning permission at the site.

She said: “The application site has been subject to a number of planning applications for retail and residential development.

“It is evident from the planning history that there have been long-standing views against the appropriateness of development on this site.

“Development in this location would also result in the reduction, and the change in character, of an important green space which provides the community with a direct link to the open countryside and informal recreational opportunities.”

She added the loss of the greenfield site would ‘fail to conserve and enhance local wildlife’ and that there is no ‘need’ for the centre to be built in Gainsborough Road because there are other sites in the town that are not designated as ‘Green Wedge’.

Ms Richardson states: “The proposal is contrary to policy because it would constitute a significant and harmful intrusion into the Green Wedge.

“There is no justification to demonstrate that it is essential for this leisure development to be located on the application site when there are significant areas of Market Rasen which are not designated as Green Wedge, particularly to the east.”

The letter raises concerns about a reduction in separation between Market Rasen and Middle Rasen, visual impact, noise and light pollution and potential anti-social behaviour in the residential area.

The proposed dry leisure facility, due to be run by Everyone Active, is part of a £7.8 million leisure investment across the district.

If plans are approved, the centre will include a 3G pitch, fitness and dance suite, and a sports hall.

WLDC hit back at Asbury’s claims in a ‘planning addendum statement’, published online on Monday (January 21).

It stated: “The use and range of facilities align closely with the key functions and policy aims of the Green Wedge designation.

“The leisure centre is of a limited scale and its impact would be negligible as it is sensitively sited within the middle of the site and the visual identity of Market Rasen and Middle Rasen would be maintained.

“Therefore, the proposal would not lead to the coalescence of these two settlements, and on balance the components of the proposal would accord with the Green Wedge policy in this particular case.

“Through both the need and alternative site assessments, it is concluded that it is essential for the proposed development to be located in the Green Wedge in order to maximise the range of health, wellbeing and sustainable benefits that can be achieved, as well as having regard to respecting the town centre’s first sequential approach.

“It is concluded that the scheme is compliant with the Development Plan and the planning balance is firmly in favour of granting planning permission.”