Lack of funding stalls new leisure centre

HOPES that the district’s new multi-million pound leisure centre would be ready in time for the Olympic Games have been dashed by a lack of funding, it was revealed this week.

Plans for the new �12 million sports centre were given the green light by planners in March but a lack of available funding means there is now no hope of building work being completed in time for the opening of the London Olympics in July next year.

The district council has insisted that officers are working hard to try and identify funding opportunities but councillors opposed to the new centre say the plans are not realistic.

Liberal democrat leader Ian Allen, said: “I’m not in the least bit surprised that they haven’t got the money. I’m appalled because basically, it was obvious from the word go that there was no money to do this.

“Why did they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop the business plan when they knew they didn’t have the money for it?”

South East Cambs Labour spokesman Clive Jeffries, added: “There has been a slight air of unreality about the plans throughout but we assumed that they had a slightly firmer grasp on things, perhaps they have been caught out.

“I think they may have to look again at the plans or look at the current site and found a lower cost solution.”

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When the plans were originally drawn up in 2009, the authority initially aimed to have the centre completed in time for the Olympics in 2012 but, as the project has progressed, that date has become increasingly improbable.

Peter Moakes, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC), said: “Far from halting the project, the council has been looking at a range of funding options since we were granted planning permission for the Downham Road site.

“There are many possible sources from post Olympic funding such as the Inspired Facilities Fund to prudent borrowing - but the key to winning any bid is to be ready to go with planning approval.

“Our aim is to work hard to get the money to turn our plans into a reality - we know in these difficult economic times this is not easy but it is a challenge we are determined to meet for the benefit of future residents of the district.”

According to the plans, the new leisure centre will provide a swimming pool, a sports hall, gym, saunas, and studios.

The concept is said by consultants Carter Jonas to be that of a sports village, with both indoor and outdoor facilities to meet the demand for an updated centre and to provide the basis for future expansion for Ely and East Cambridgeshire.

The centre will also boast a large car park and will provide transport links into the heart of the city, although it is unclear whether the bus service will be hourly or half-hourly.

Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to access the site via a proposed A10 underpass that will lead directly onto the new site.