New leisure centre racks up early �300,000 bill

AN Olympic-style sports village looks set to have cost taxpayers more than �300,000 before a brick has even been laid.

MORE than �300,000 has already been ploughed into an Olympic-style sports village before a brick has even been laid.

Eye-watering figures released by opponents to the Downham Road site claim hundreds of thousands of pounds has been splashed out on architects’ fees, highways work and archaeology in the midst of a financial meltdown.

Yet the need for state-of-the-art leisure complex to replace the Paradise Sports Centre is greater than ever if Ely is to provide health facilities fit for the 21st century, designers say.

Defending the spiralling costs, they say all residents in East Cambridgeshire deserve gym and sports amenities within easy access of the A10 and that the scheme is vital to serve the area’s rising population.

“In times of financial difficulty, these kind of facilities are required even more,” community services committee chairman Peter Cresswell says.

A document prepared by East Cambridgeshire District Council and Robert Limbrick Architects adds: “The district, especially Ely, has experienced significant residential growth over the last 10 years.”

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It says at least 5,500 more homes will be built by 2025 and that “a commensurate level of employment, retail, community, leisure and infrastructure development needs to be provided to achieve sustainable communities”.

The report puts a �12 million and �15 million price tag on the entire scheme – but if it doesn’t happen, the Paradise Swimming Pool would need urgent repairs to the tune of �5 million.

However, Cllr Ian Allen warns fellow elected representatives are “pursuing a multi-million pound project which they cannot afford and is unlikely to attract private backing in these difficult economic times.

“Instead of putting this project on hold until the money is available, they are pushing forward leaving the district council in an extremely precarious financial position,” he said.

He also said 80 per cent of residents were opposed to the new centre but Cllr Cresswell countered: “There is considerable enthusiasm for it.”

He added that he is “hoping the 2012 Olympics will be of financial benefit to us” because of money from the Community Infrastructure Levy and savings from subsidies paid to the operators of the Paradise Sports Centre.

But he did admit the Government’s Autumn Comprehensive Spending Review meant he could not confirm any timetable for completion.

“I’ve always been committed to this site because it brings lots of sports facilities together,” he said.