Several proposals across Peterborough, including Maskew Avenue, Northminster and Pleasure Fair Meadow Car Park have been put forward, with the latter recommended to Peterborough City Council's cabinet as the preferred destination following a feasibility report from Sport, Leisure and Consultancy commissioned in September.
The current facility is viewed as "a significant cost and liability to the Council", with an annual cost of about £1.3m for the next decade.
A replacement move would be made possible by the Peterborough Investment Partnership (PIP) developing and selling the completed leisure centre to the council, which would see the Council pre-purchase the asset from PIP subject to its construction and obtaining planning consent.
The council would need to agree to an amendment to its budget to include capital purchase costs up to £38m. An investment into the PIP of up to 49% of the project development costs would also be needed, but since the council is a co-owner of the PIP it would benefit as shareholder from dividends distributed from any profit on construction costs.
In the agenda for the Budget Cabinet meeting, Steve Cox, Executive Director of Place and Economy, wrote: "The Regional Pool was built in 1976 and is reaching the end of its effective operational life as a leisure centre. Keeping it open for the next decade is not cost effective as significant additional short term works are needed to keep the premises open and there would still be a need to procure and finance a replacement facility.
"The plant and equipment in the Regional Pool are ageing and the facilities on offer fall short of what is now commonly expected by users. It is no longer wholly fit for purpose.
"The site occupied by the Regional Pool is adjacent to the area allocated for the city’s university development. While the plant and equipment within the building is approaching end of life the building itself is structurally sound and could potentially be repurposed for university-related uses."
Mr Cox explained that in a review conducted in 2017, funded by Sports England, Peterborough had a shortage of 9x25m swimming pool lanes compared to the English average level of provision per head of the population. It was expected that the shortfall could rise to 14 lanes by 2035.
In the report, it was highlighted that an assessment of demand had previously been undertaken by consultants which led to two potential facility 'mixes' for a new centre. This included an (viewed to be the minimum required for a modern replacement) and an ‘optimal’ mix (which builds on the minimal specification and extends it), with consultants looking at how each mix would affect financial performance.
The essential mix would include: eight lane, 25m pool with 300 spectator seats; 15mx10m teaching pool; sauna and relaxation; 150-station gym; two exercise studios of 40-person capacity; one spin studio of 20-person capacity; café.
Alternatively, the second option would feature: eight lane, 25m pool with 300 spectator seats; 17mx15m teaching pool; sauna and relaxation; 350sqm of leisure water, with water features and toddler splash area; 175-station gym; two exercise studios of 40-person capacity; one yoga studio of 20-person capacity; one spin studio of 20-person capacity; four-court sports hall; soft-play area; possible clip-n-climb; café.
Mr Cox explained that it would not be in the council's best interest from either a public health or financial perspective to continue investing in the existing Regional Pool without a clear, long-term strategy for replacing it.
He added: "The existing Regional Pool is nearing the end of its useful operational life and its closure without a replacement would have significant negative impacts. The development of a new facility on Pleasure Fair Meadows offers an opportunity to replace the Regional Pool in a timely fashion with a modern, fit for purpose centre that will help to meet identified user needs.
"It is more cost effective to invest in new facilities now rather than sink costs in existing facilities that will need replacing in the medium term."
It was also suggested that the optimal mix option would be the best-value option, despite higher capital costs.
Both options would make a net loss, with the essential mix costing around £26m, making a loss of £350k per annum in the first 15-years which would be expected to reduce to 100k on average over the 40-year life span.
Meanwhile the optimal mix would have a purchase price of around £38m, making a net annual loss of £400k per annum in the first 15 years, but over the 40-year life, it is "possible that the facility is overall broadly cost-neutral".
PCC has highlighted the importance of making sure there is a replacement facility in place due to its essential use for various groups across the city, including:
- NHS – Rehabilitation classes for a variety of conditions are provided, including cardiac and pulmonary conditions, cancer, and stroke, as well as treating obesity, and falls prevention work
- Army Reserves – Active personal can use the facilities to support their fitness and wellbeing to help with the voluntary work they undertake.
- Disability groups – The centre has many groups and individuals that have needs, these range from visual impairment and sight impaired groups to individuals that need careers or 1-1 training with trained professionals.
- Schools and Colleges – Both use the facilities through the year for specific training in the pool or the gym/studios.
- Fire Brigade – Dogsthorpe, Stanground and Yaxley brigades use the plant room spaces monthly to support their training development especially with new recruits. Once a year they also use the facility for mass evacuation training sessions.
- Holiday Club Activity – During school holidays the facility offers child care for children aged between 8yrs and 15yrs whilst schools are closed. This is a popular and required service that would be lost if the facility closed with no replacement on offer.
The locations short-listed for consideration to host the new pool include:
- The current Regional Pool site – the report explained that this site does feel more isolated from the city centre and may not be an ideal location. Mr Cox added: "This site is owned and controlled by the Council, and therefore would technically be available, but it is also in the area allocated by the Council for the Peterborough University development, and re-provision of this facility on this site is likely to act as at least a minimal constraint on how that is taken forward. This is likely to be a significant barrier to redevelopment here."
- Wellington Street Car Park – Again, due to its location, this would also feel isolating, adding that other locations are superior due to this.
- Pleasure Fair Meadows Car Park – This location has been described as "more compelling in terms of prominence" adding that "the visibility of the site and the regeneration of the surrounding areas represents an excellent opportunity to highlight Peterborough’s continued growth and success to a large audience of national train travellers."
- Northminster – The site is not immediately available, and while the use of the Regional Pool would be beneficial to the long-term plans to redevelop Northminster, it would take a significant amount of land with numerous design constraints.
- North Westgate – Although councillors believe this would be a great site to host the new pool, the site is unlikely to be available in even the medium term, and the council controls only very small elements of it currently, so there would be significant constraints on using this area.
- Mayor's Walk – Again, this is unlikely to be in the short-to-medium term, but due to its close proximity to both the railway and bus station, it has been short-listed for a potential location.
- Maskew Avenue – The site is currently for sale, but is understood to have a number of interested parties. The site is allocated for B-class uses in planning terms, and therefore use as a leisure centre is not immediately supported by the adopted local plan.
The meeting to discuss these options is set to take place on Monday, November 30 at 10am, allowing councillors to also analyse their plans regarding the upcoming costs and the annual budget in full.