Fast track for new St Albans leisure centre

PUBLISHED: 18:15 07 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:30 06 May 2010

SPEED is of the essence in starting work on a new leisure centre for St Albans, the district council s cabinet agreed this week. Overwhelming public support for the second option for the redevelopment of Westminster Lodge, which will include a spa and res

SPEED is of the essence in starting work on a new leisure centre for St Albans, the district council's cabinet agreed this week.

Overwhelming public support for the second option for the redevelopment of Westminster Lodge, which will include a spa and restaurant/bistro, has inspired the district council to pick up the pace in getting the scheme off the ground.

At a meeting on Tuesday evening, it was decided that a planning application for the new-look leisure facility - which will include a 23x17m swimming pool with a learner pool, fitness suite and four-court sports hall - should aim to be submitted by January next year.

Portfolio holder for sport and healthy living Cllr Sheila Burton said that St Albans had waited long enough: "One member of the public who filled out the questionnaire wrote under the comments section, 'just get on with it, we've waited long enough!'. I agree and I think it's important to do just that."

Council leader Cllr Robert Donald said that he was excited about the new-look Westminster Lodge, which is due to open in spring 2012: "It will be a premier leisure facility which we as a district can be very proud of."

The new sports facility will be built on the car park fronting Holywell Hill and discussions are still being held with the Abbey Theatre about how it will impact on the Company of Ten.

But plans for a similar leisure facility at Cotlandswick in London Colney, a sister project to the Westminster Lodge scheme, are flagging because the district council has yet to find an investor who will commit themselves to the project.

Cllr Burton explained: "Only four commercial operators returned forms which expressed interest in the site. But, because we have to rely on outside bodies to invest in the Cotlandswick scheme, I think it's inevitable that the Cotlandswick project will progress at a slower pace to Westminster Lodge."

She added: "Our pre-enquiry form to potential investors for Cotlandswick got an impressive 51 replies and I think the detail we asked for in the follow-up form is to blame for the lack of responses second time round.

"The questionnaire will be restructured and sent out again to try and tackle the problem.

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