Row continues over St Albans sports centre at Westminster Lodge

PUBLISHED: 09:28 08 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:19 06 May 2010

CONSULTATION into proposals for the redevelopment of Westminster Lodge Sports Centre does not give objectors any chance to comment on the location. The proposal is to build the new sports and leisure complex at the front of Westminster Lodge abutting Holy

CONSULTATION into proposals for the redevelopment of Westminster Lodge Sports Centre does not give objectors any chance to comment on the location.

The proposal is to build the new sports and leisure complex at the front of Westminster Lodge abutting Holywell Hill.

But that will mean the Abbey Theatre is hidden behind the building and takes the sports centre even further away from the running track than it is at present.

St Albans council has put forward two proposals for the new development which will include a swimming pool to replace the existing one and a dry sports area. It is currently consulting on the two schemes and has come under fire for doing so at the peak of the holiday season when many people are away.

Cllr Roma Mills, Labour group leader on the district council, believes few families will have an opportunity to see the plans and respond in such a short and busy time frame.

Cllr Mills, who is also Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate, believes that the peculiar timing may reflect the council's wariness about how the plans will be received by the public.

She said: "Many residents will be disappointed to see that the main pool in both options is shorter than the existing one and deep water diving facilities and the flumes have been axed. They are typically very popular with young people."

A spokesperson for the council said that the decision to locate the new leisure centre on the site to the front of Holywell Hill had been made by the cabinet in November 2006 after looking both at that site and the area of land adjacent to the running track.

Members had received a detailed analysis and risk assessment of the two potential sites based on criteria which included archaeology, parking provision and site capacity and layout.

She explained that building on the existing Westminster Lodge site had been discounted because it would not have been possible to accommodate or orientate the building to reduce archaeological damage.

The spokesperson, who confirmed that the water flumes, which are a feature of the existing sports centre, are not included in the redevelopment proposals, maintained that the council wanted to reach as many people as possible with the consultation

She said: "The council has not timed the consultation to prevent families from having a chance to participate. In fact the summer holidays is often one of the busiest periods for families attending the district's leisure centres."

She added: "In addition to the public displays and stakeholder consultation events, residents have been able to view and feedback comments on the proposals for the new leisure facility at Westminster Lodge through the council's website.

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