£1m swimming complex plans for once-threatened Dimensions centre
MORE than £500,000 is set to be invested in new swimming facilities at a council-run leisure complex – just three years after the centre's pool was threatened with closure.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council will provide the cash if it can find private funding or grants to take the total investment at Dimensions to at least £1 million.
It comes three years after plans to close the splash pool at the Burslem centre were scrapped.
That sparked a political storm which led to the arrest of two senior politicians and a leading businessman.
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Council officials today said it was too early to say whether the pool would entirely replace existing facilities, although the authority's aspiration is for a 'new swimming pool' at Dimensions.
Assistant director of neighbourhood engagement Judith Kirk told councillors: "We have to make sure the facilities are fit for the future and this proposal reflects that."
The proposed investment at Dimensions follows the closure of swimming pools in Tunstall and Shelton as part of £35.6 million cuts in 2011/12.
A host of cuts to swimming services are also planned for 2012/13, including forcing schools to pay extra for swimming lessons and ending the subsidy paid to the City of Stoke-on-Trent Swimming Club.
Terry Cope, chairman of Greenfields Residents' Association, in Tunstall, said: "The people of Tunstall have been misled.
"This £500,000 would have kept both Tunstall and Shelton pools going and they were two pools that were very necessary for their communities."
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, who campaigned to save the splash pool, said: "I'm not against investment, but was this at the cost of Tunstall and Shelton?"
The Dimensions investment is planned over the next three years.
It also involves an overhaul of gym facilities.
It comes months after the council spent £44,000 resolving a long-running legal dispute with WaterWorld owner Mo Chaudry. Mr Chaudry – who was arrested and later released without charge – was paid about £22,000 by the council.
The entrepreneur threatened to sue the council after claiming the authority broke a secret deal to shut the splash pool and pay him £100,000-per-year to offer a discount at his Festival Park attraction.
Mr Chaudry said he could only support the new plans if it means the splash pool being replaced and asked the council to look again at partnerships with private swimming facilities.
He added: "It makes no economic sense to me for the council to build another pool and keep an existing, heavily-subsidised facility open.
"It would be a ludicrous decision to have two pools open at the same location when the complex is already being subsidised.
"The only real option is to reconfigure the existing splash pool to a normal swimming pool.
"Anything other than this would be mindless and uneconomic."
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