New £5.5m Southwell pool plan scrapped as council blames trust’s ‘intransigence’

Southwell leisure centre's pool is too old to be repaired (Photo: Active4Today)
By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors have said they are ‘really disappointed’ as plans to build a £5.5m new swimming pool in Southwell fell through.

Newark and Sherwood District Council said the “intransigence” of the Southwell Leisure Centre Trust, which owns the land where it was to be built, was to blame for the collapse.

The council had promised to build a replacement swimming pool after the old one was closed for safety reasons, in exchange for a transfer of the land.

But after five months of delays, the authority will instead put £497,000 towards repairs of the existing pool and leisure centre, which they run as tenants.

The charitable trust has not transferred ownership of the land next to the leisure centre, saying it needed permission from the Charity Commission.

Several online petitions were set up demanding repairs instead, and comparing the council to a land grab, with nearly 2,500 people signing the largest one.

Leader Councillor Paul Peacock (Lab) said there had been “a considerable amount of misinformation” over the council’s plans.

“Conspiracy theories about our intentions should reflect on our commitment to the leisure centre over the last 20 years,” he told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (May 14).

“Far from being bullies looking for a land grab, the council has been nothing but supportive.

“However, good councils listen to public opinion and local people have told us what they want.”

He claimed that he thought the “logjam” in negotiations had been broken three or four times, only for new problems to crop up.

The £5.5m will be reallocated to other projects aimed at improving residents’ health and wellbeing.

The council stepped in to save the leisure centre from closure during the Covid pandemic, and says it has invested more than £4m in repairs to date.

The trust is made up of members of Southwell Town Council and Newark and Sherwood District Council, who are prevented on voting on matters relating to the district council.

Councillor Keith Melton (Lib Dem) recently resigned from the trust to prevent a conflict of interest while discussions were under way.

He blamed the “intransigence of trust over long period of time” for the collapse.

Councillor Rhona Hollaway (Con) said: “Residents will be devastated. A lot of people been looking forward to new pool.”

Southwell Councillor Peter Harris (Lib Dem) claimed the deal could have been approached better, saying: “Not just one side but both sides caused problems here.”

Councillor Paul Taylor (Lab) said plans had been scuppered by a few vocal voices.

“The silent majority will be asking why they haven’t got new swimming pool. We should have been five months into building preparation. I hope there isn’t regret down the line,” he said.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has attempted to contact the trust for comment.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)