Members of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council Leisure & Development Committee received a presentation which outlined four possible design schemes with the costs of the original scheme from 2018 expected to be ‘heading north to £30m’.
Three of the four options saw a considerable reduction in the footprint of the new leisure centre at 4,860 sq m in comparison to the original design of 6,334 sq m, leading some councillors to call it ‘disappointing’ with a need to ‘go back to the drawing board’.
John Beggs, Project Officer for SIB (Strategic Investment Board) explained a number of options for the new centre to the committee, a number of them reducing the size of the building’s footprint by 20%.
Mr Beggs said that to adhere to the latest carbon agenda costs would be inflated by another 10/15% so with carbon add ons it is heading north to £30m.
“Whilst we have reduced the schedule of accommodation to make the scheme more affordable, unfortunately the cost of inflation has almost eradicated that benefit so we are back, I’m sorry to say we are talking around £20m for a decent leisure centre for Coleraine town,” he added.
Mr Beggs said both the Coleraine Leisure Centre project and the Ballycastle Leisure provision could be submitted as Levelling Up applications for Government funding.
DUP Alderman George Duddy called the options presented ‘unacceptable.’ He said: “When you sit and reflect on the amount of time it has taken us to get here, we could probably have had one built some time ago, away back six/seven years ago for a lot less. We are now having to accept a much smaller leisure centre because of costs and affordability.
“We closed down Waterworld and part of the reason behind that was we were going to build a leisure centre in Coleraine which was fit for purpose and that purpose was the tourism trade which was coming into the town.
“We now see there is no Leisure Box wet play, we have no learner pool within the current design, to me that’s not acceptable.
“I am disappointed, deeply disappointed for the people of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart that we may have to accept something that is less than is needed for the area and I think we need to take a serious look at putting something in that is fit for the future, fit for purpose, fit for the tourist, fit for the persons who pay the rates in this borough, fit for the next generation coming along and we aren’t doing it.”
Party colleague Philip Anderson agreed, adding: “We have waited long enough for this and I think honestly we need to go back to the drawing board and bring something back that would enhance the area that is looking to draw in tourism.”
PUP Councillor Russell Watton described the proposed refurbishment as ‘nonsense’.
He added: “I am very disappointed in the reduction in the floor space and facilities.
UUP Alderman Joan Baird added: “Coleraine Leisure Centre is, as we all know, not fit for purpose and the problem we seem to be up against is we seem to be looking for this funding coming from Levelling Up but we seem to have left it until the eleventh hour so I do not understand why this has not come before us earlier.
“The ABC (Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon) Council have built a state of the art swimming pool and leisure centre and I think we should spend the time to go and have a look at that and see if we can up our horizon.”