£24m revamp for leisure facilities

Leyland Leisure Centre
Leyland Leisure Centre
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More than £24m could be spent on a major overhaul of leisure facilities in South Ribble, it has been revealed.

The biggest cost is likely to be on a new state-of-the-art leisure centre in Leyland, with a bill of £15m.

A cutting edge sports pitch hub, with four full-sized artificial grass pitches, will set the authority back a further £4.6m.

But, with grants in short supply, more than £18m of the total price will have to be borrowed, with the council forking out almost £1m a year in loan repayments until around 2060.

The mind-boggling figures are contained in a confidential report by a cross-party working group looking into an ambitious “health, leisure and well-being campus” programme for the whole borough. The council’s cabinet has approved the investment programme, which will see the first £1.9m spent in the next financial year.

Discussions took place at a cabinet meeting on Thursday evening. The press and public were excluded from the debate, but it was later revealed the plan has been agreed “with cross-party support.”

The working group has said the total bill for the revamp could potentially reach £24,450,000. The authority can expect only around £2.1m in grants towards the cost, and a further £4m could be raised from the sale of surplus land. But the bulk of the cost - almost £18.3m - would have to be raised through loans, with the council starting to pay it back as early as 2018/19.

Repayments will rise to £942,000 a year by 2022/23 and remain at that figure for the following 35 years.

But with the new artificial pitch hub expected to rake in a net income of £300,000 a year, coupled with savings of almost £300,000 on maintenance costs for the old Leyland Leisure Centre and other income from the campus scheme, estimates suggest the council could even be in pocket overall.

The groundbreaking decision comes a year after it was feared three leisure centres across South Ribble - Leyland, Bamber Bridge and Penwortham - could all be shut down and replaced by just one multi-million pound facility at Farington Moss.

The idea sparked concern from Leyland residents who wanted a leisure complex to remain in the town. A petition was signed by 1,900 people.

But now a new “campus concept” has been brought forward which includes the £2m improvement of existing facilities, coupled with a replacement super leisure centre on available land in West Paddock, Leyland.

It will have a six-court sports hall, an eight-lane swimming pool, a training pool, a fitness centre and a dance studio.

The working party suggested detailed plans and a planning application could be ready in 2018/19, a start could be made on site in 2019/20 and the project could be completed in 2020/21. A site has yet to be acquired for the artificial sports pitch hub, although that is expected in the next financial year.

News that Leyland could have a brand new eight-lane pool within three years was welcomed by the town’s Barracudas Swimming Club.

President Elaine Fitchie said: “From a swimming point of view this is absolutely fantastic. We did have concerns at one time that they would be closing all three leisure centres in South Ribble and replacing them with just one on the outskirts of the town.

“But building a new one in Leyland and keeping the other two open is wonderful news. And an eight-lane pool compared with the surrent five we have will mean we can get more swimmers in the water at a time.

“Currently we don’t have much of a spectator area and we don’t have much space poolside, which means it isn’t ideal for running competitions. If we could bring competitions to Leyland that would raise income for the club. It’s great news.”

Leyland councillor Claire Hamilton said: “I’m absolutely delighted the plan has been approved by all parties. It’s exciting to see how the leisure services in South Ribble could be transformed.

“And keeping the leisure centre in Leyland is crucial. We’ve had 1,900 signatures in support of that. It should be in the heart of Leyland otherwise people who have transport issues will not be bale to use it.”