Shropshire Council’s cabinet will next week be asked to progress with plans for a new facility, to include a gym, café, studio, and potentially a dedicated space to co-locate the town's library.
A report to members says six options for the future of swimming provision in the town have been assessed, after the deteriorating state of the current 50-year-old swimming centre was highlighted by its prolonged closure during the pandemic, and the subsequent discovery of a leak in the pool.
The report, by Mark Barrow, the council's director of place, recommends cabinet members agree to progress option six – a new build, constructed using ‘alternative’ specialist methods.
Option one is to do nothing, which would lead to the permanent closure of the pool and loss of swimming provision from the town, while option two would see repairs carried out to the current building at a cost of £1.25m.
Options three, four and five involve the construction of a new leisure centre with a six-lane 25 metre pool, with varying levels of complementary facilities bringing the total cost estimates – excluding VAT – to £6.32m, £6.93m and £7.73m respectively.
The final option is for the new building to be constructed using ‘alternative’ methods, providing all the extra facilities included in option five, but at the lower cost of £6.3m, totalling £7.56m with VAT.
The report says: “Discussions with a company, who specialise in modern systems built structures including the construction of swimming pools that does not involve extensive ground excavations, have provided high level indicative construction costs for a 25m x six lane swimming pool, 35 station gym, dance studio, reception changing village and café of £6.3m plus VAT (subject to surveys of the proposed site).”
The project will be financed through borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board, and paid back over 25 years.
Cabinet is asked to give the green light to a full feasibility study into option six, followed by stakeholder engagement and a consultation, with a further report to come back to cabinet in March 2022.
This will also include exploring the possibility of co-locating the town’s library within the same development.
The report concludes: “The facility has reached the end of its economic serviceable life and significant repair and maintenance work is required.
“Many of these items are critical and if not completed pose a high risk to the council in terms of health and safety, environment, business and operations.
“Closing the facility is not considered a realistic option due to the insight evidencing that the provision of a facility in Whitchurch is required to provide for the demand in the area.
“The repair and maintenance works are unlikely to significantly extend the lifespan of the current building."
It adds: “Redevelopment of a new larger facility, offering an increased range of facilities, has the capacity to de-risk current health and safety and other issues associated with the existing facility, encourage increased participation in physical activity, deliver increased health benefits (physical and mental) to more people as a result of taking part in physical activity, contribute to a more active environment at local level and be more cost-effective and efficient to operate than the existing stand-alone swimming pool which requires a high level of subsidy.
“A new facility has the potential to impact positively on several of the council’s organisational principles.
“A new facility can be designed to have a serviceable lifespan of up to 50 years.
“Based on the ability to meet the strategic outcomes, option six looks to meet the greatest range including, securing the long-term provision of swimming in Whitchurch at the lowest relative cost, being able to generate increased participation and income.
“The development of a new leisure facility on the current site also has the potential to co-locate the town’s library within the development and it is recommended that this be considered in more detail as part of any additional feasibility study agreed for the site.”
Cabinet will discuss the report at a meeting next Wednesday, June 30.