Council will splash cash - but not on pool

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Garstang Leisure Centre bosses are celebrating a major boost in membership as it was revealed they are set for a £250,000 cash investment.

But confusion still surrounds the future of an ambitious pool development at the Windsor Road facility after Wyre Council ruled out any immediate plans for the scheme.

Wyre Council leader Peter Gibson has pledged to keep the YMCA centre open for leisure-users with secure investment within the next year. The council’s 2014/15 budget, approved last week, set out the guaranteed sum and Coun Gibson said it would be now subject to public consultation on how best the money is spent.

Meanwhile a YMCA board meeting heard this week the centre is thriving after a 29 per cent increase in membership on last year, the highest across all the centres in the borough. But Coun Gibson added there was no possible way a swimming pool could be funded alone by the council.

“Is Wyre Council going to write a big cheque on a project we can’t determine is financially viable? Well, no we’re obviously not going to do that.

“There is future investment for Garstang but the Oak Road building is owned by the County Council and we don’t have £2.3m to build swimming pools - it will be up to them to provide the contribution for it.

“LCC now have £300m in savings to find so I can’t see it as one of their priorities in fact it is positively worse.”

His comments followed questions asked by Wyre Councillor for Cabus ward Roger Brooks over clarification on the long-term leisure vision for residents in Garstang at last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting at Wyre Civic Centre in Poulton.

Wyre Coun and leisure and culture portfolio holder Lynn Bowen said: “I don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future,” but added there was little likelihood of a new pool project within the next five years without the ‘significant external contributions’ previously mentioned.

She added she had played no part in any discussions with Lancashire County Council over the proposals laid out in her leisure review report dated September 2012, which stated the council had indicated it would be willing to consider an investment in the pool scheme.

Asked about those conversations, corporate director of people and places Michael Ryan said they had taken place at ‘officer level.’

He said he could not give an exact date on when they took place and added there was no update following initial discussions.

Asked about the ‘other funding opportunities,’ he mentioned Sport England but this would have to be a joint effort between all organisations and authorities.

Coun Murphy said it was LCC ‘dragging their feet’ on any pool project and suggested it would be inevitably up to LCC not Wyre Borough if Garstang was to benefit from a new swimming bath.