THE debate over the future of Uttoxeter Leisure Centre has been ongoing for several years. I hesitate to say how many but I don’t think ten would be far from the mark with no action being taken in all that time.
Recently the debate has sharpened with the local authority asserting that there is money set aside to undertake a project. Now it appears we are down to a short list of two sites or ideas. One to refurbish the current facilities and the alternative is a new complex on land adjacent to the A50. For me there is no sensible or logical alternative to the new build option.
To undertake a refurbishment of the current site is simply a non starter for the following reasons:
1. The building is well beyond its useful life expectancy so to refurbish it would, I believe, mean its closure whilst extensive and expensive patching up work takes place. Given the local authority’s ability to renege on its promises at every turn (the loss of the cattle market, failure to bring a new supermarket onto that vacant site and delay after delay in starting work on the JCB site the most recent). Why would we want to repose any trust in them to actually undertake the work if they can close the current facility down in the first place?
2. The current building leaks and often has to be closed during inclement weather as a result. Patching it up would not remedy this in any effective, long term way.
3. The current level of facilities are woefully inadequate and designed for a much smaller population than Uttoxeter has or is planned to have in future. The swimming pool is small, well under the required size for modern competitive swimming and the spectator facilities are abysmal.
4. Some days the pool is so crowded that people who want to cannot swim lengths for fear of colliding with others who wish to stop and take a breather.
5. I swim three times a week and am well aware of the amount of green algae build up on the bottom and sides of the pool and the generally poor state of the tiles. Temperature control of the water is sporadic at best.
6. The sports facilities are all outdated and too small to cope with current demand never mind the future and consequently cannot offer a range of sports and activities we deserve.
7. Changing facilities are shameful. Heating and air conditioning issues, which are legion, aside the showers are barely able to cope with demand. It is a lottery whether you freeze or boil. The changing rooms themselves are poorly designed and do not lend themselves to modern use.
8. There is no real provision for refreshment other than vending machines.
9. The current parking facilities are multi use which means that at times leisure centre users have problems finding a space because of school parking and general use. Access onto the road is hazardous because of the blind bend.
The alternative proposal overcomes all of these problems. A brand new facility big enough to accommodate the growth in the town and surrounding areas which has occurred over the last 20 years and will continue.
The possibilities for a modern complex with multiple use facilities including a new full size pool and a gym and indoor games halls are surely inarguable.
Access to the new site from both the A50 and the town would ensure a smooth flow of traffic and the opportunity to include an adequate car park for both able bodied and disabled users. A recent petition against the new site has made much of the access from the A50 while ignoring the potential of vehicular and pedestrian access from the town.
If the new site was adopted then the energies of the towns people could be directed into ensuring that they build with all the amenities we want rather than a rehash of the current inadequacies.
In the meantime the current centre could remain open, generating income and acting as insurance against the council deciding that we can all go to Burton as we are increasing forced to do for other amenities.