Alternative location for new leisure centre is suggested
Existing plans to redevelop Congleton Leisure Centre have been paused for a review - and a completely new building in an alternative location to include an eight-lane swimming pool and a cycle circuit have been suggested.
The redevelopment of the Worrall Street leisure centre would see the demolition of the existing six-lane swimming pool, to be replaced with a new pool hall including reception and changing areas, and refurbishment of the existing sports hall and gym areas.
The original start date for redevelopment work was May/June 2019 with completion this autumn but concerns were raised last year that Congleton's growing population had not been taken into account and that an eight-lane pool was needed to accommodate galas and competitions.
One of those who wanted the plans reconsidered was Congleton councillor Suzie Akers Smith, Cheshire East Council's walking and cycling champion.
She updated fellow Congleton town councillors during a meeting at the town hall on Thursday about expected increase in costs of the project, the available budget, and the exploration of grant funding to provide an enhanced facility.
She later told the Chronicle redevelopment costs had risen from £8m to £11m and that everything was put on hold because of the pandemic.
Coun Akers Smith said: “What Coun Mick Warren, Cheshire East's portfolio holder for communities, has suggested is to put the leisure centre redevelopment on hold until October and review whether the existing plan is good enough for Congleton or if there is an opportunity for something better.
“If we could procure some land and build a leisure centre from scratch we would get better value for money.”
She suggested a completely new leisure centre at another location could include a cycle track, possibly a closed road cycle circuit, an eight-lane swimming pool, mountain bike trails or even a triathlon park.
“We are looking at all our options,” said Coun Akers Smith. “We are taking this opportunity to pause and reflect to see whether we can build something bigger and better.
“Reviewing the current plan gives us the opportunity to see whether it would be good enough for Congleton.”
She would not be drawn on any potential alternative locations for the leisure centre but pointed to the housing developments close to Congleton Link Road, which is due to be built later this year.
Coun Akers Smith said money from the sale of the existing leisure centre site could be used to develop a completely new centre at another location.
Congleton town councillors agreed that David McGifford, the town council's chief officer, should write to the relevant Cheshire East Council officers and the portfolio holder to request that the town council is involved in the review.