Westminster Lodge expansion plan steamrolls ahead

No last minute save for original leisure centre scheme

A LAST-ditch bid to persuade St Albans council’s cabinet to reconsider a decision to install a larger pool at the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre has failed.

The issue of the 10-lane pool which is now to be built at the leisure centre at the expense of a poolside health suite, solar panels and grey water recycling and poorer quality fixtures and fittings was called in by a council scrutiny committee.

But five recommendations put forward by the chairman, Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Robert Donald, failed including one which called on the cabinet to produce a statement of revised costs and the new business case for Westminster Lodge.

The Lib Dem group had proposed an eight-lane pool at the leisure centre before losing control of the district council in May.

Cllr Donald pointed out at Tuesday night’s meeting that there was only one other 10-lane pool in the country which had opened just last month so there was no feedback on how it was working in practice in terms of cost, maintenance and any additional problems.

He questioned whether there was a real need for additional swimming space as the popularity of swimming was declining and warned that there was evidence that the costs were higher than the current Tory administration believed.

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Cllr Donald’s recommendations included the lack of consultation over the change in the number of lanes, the hidden financial costs and the increased risk to council taxpayers money from the amendments to the original scheme.

He added: “We have done our best to challenge what the administration is now doing on behalf of residents because we think there are serious financial implications.”

Cllr Mike Wakely, portfolio holder for sport, welcomed the scrutiny committee’s decision to support the two additional lanes which he maintained could be introduced within budget.

He said that by increasing the main pool by 25 per cent plus providing multi-use changing rooms would help future proof the new Westminster Lodge and stressed: “We took great care to minimise the changes needed to achieve this. All the key features of the leisure centre have been kept.”

And he called on everyone to get behind what he said would be, “a great facility for the residents of the district.”