Conservatives due to stand in Market Rasen in the May elections have hit back at residents who slammed the council for building a multi-million pound leisure centre without a swimming pool.
In an joint statement to the Rasen Mail, Cordelia McCartney – the wife of former Lincoln MP Karl McCartney – and current West Lindsey District Council members John McNeill and Thomas Smith have challenged residents’ views that the new £6.3m will be ‘a waste of money without a pool’.
But the Tory Trio have admitted: “Ultimately, only when the new facility is open and in use will its viability be understood – if we are wrong, our critics will have been proved right, however we would be far happier to try to achieve something and get it wrong, than not try, because it may go wrong.”
Initial groundworks for the new Gainsborough Road centre started last month - but the works were met with anger from many of the town’s residents who think a dry leisure centre is ‘pointless’.
Mrs McCartney, Coun McNeill and Coun Smith said: “During the procurement exercise the inclusion of a swimming pool in Market Rasen was considered, but unfortunately could not be taken forward.
“Proposals from the Market Rasen Action Group were
also reviewed by officers at the council and found to be equally unviable.
“The criticism that it [the leisure centre] will only be used by a small number of people is based on the concern that the new facility will be a waste of money or at best a huge subsidy for the few who do use it, this is counterpoised by the argument that only with a swimming pool could the facility be viable.
“It is understandable that some people, probably those who have little inclination to use it, think that, like themselves, everyone else will not wish to use it.
“Equally understandable is the expression of the long-held desire for a swimming pool in Market Rasen, especially given the history of fundraising, missed opportunities and unrealised ambitions. However, when the dry leisure centre is a success this will support the case for a swimming pool
“Indeed, the council have already taken a positive step towards building a swimming pool in Market Rasen by ensuring that there is space on the new site to accommodate one, should it be viable to build it.”
But the statement said that given the squeeze on local government finances it would be ‘imprudent’ of the council to invest in a swimming pool which ‘might not be sustainable with unknown local demand’.
The councillors and Mrs McCartney said the £6.3m being spent on the new facility was not merely an upfront cost, but the cost of the Market Rasen part of its contract with the leisure provider over its 15-year term.
They said: “The new dry leisure centre is a replacement for the sports centre at De Aston School… it will augment the provision already available, and enhance the offering. It is planned that additional services will be available at the new dry leisure facility and, for example, it will be available for use throughout the day, which is not currently possible at the school site.
“This was one of the motivating factors for a new facility in a new location and there are clear benefits to De Aston School in no longer having a public facility on site while retaining the facility for their students.”
The leisure centre will include a 3G football pitch and dance suite and sports hall.
Plans for the centre were approved by WLDC’s planning committee on February 6.