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New Didcot leisure centre cost could jump by £7m
AN additional £7.36m is set to be spent on Didcot’s new leisure centre after residents were consulted over what facilities they want.
The centre, which will include a 25m eight-lane pool, will open as part of plans for a 2,000-home estate at North East Didcot, north of the Ladygrove estate. It is due to open in 2016 and was originally expected to cost £15.2m.
But as part of South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) budget proposals an additional £7.36m of capital funding is set to be invested in the centre, following discussions with the architects.
The council has previously said that Didcot Wave, the popular pool in Newlands Avenue, would close after the opening of the new leisure centre. But Ann Ducker, leader of SODC, said no decision had yet been taken regarding the closure.
She said: “We have asked residents what they want and their desires have pushed up the cost – a new pool there is on their wish list.
“We want to provide a completely modern centre like the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre in Abingdon.
“No decision has yet been taken on the future of Didcot Wave – that could happen in 2016 or 2017.”
Town councillor Des Healy, of Collingwood Avenue, who last year launched a campaign to save Didcot Wave pool, said: “If the council can find an extra £7m for the new leisure centre then it should be able to find enough money to keep Didcot Wave open.
“It needs to make sure that the older, more established part of Didcot is not neglected. A town this size deserves two pools – we got 2,500 signatures on our petition to save Didcot Wave and 600 of those names came from people living in surrounding villages.”
The council is also setting aside further funding for the Orchard Centre and Didcot town centre redevelopment.
Shopping centre developer Hammerson announced a £125m second phase of the Orchard Centre in 2011 but no planning application has yet been submitted. SODC wants to invest £4.8m in 2016/17 and £700,000 in 2017/18 to support it.
And to help regenerate Didcot town centre, £3.2m could be spent in 2016/17 and £700,000 in 2017/18.
According to an SODC report, funding for the Orchard Centre and town centre redevelopment depends on receipt of the New Homes Bonus, money local authorities receive from the Government when new homes are built.
Mrs Ducker added: “The money is being earmarked but it must be spent on what residents require and a good centre for the residents of Didcot and South Oxfordshire.”
Town council leader Margaret Davies said: “I would love to be able to welcome all this additional expenditure but the Orchard Centre phase two has been significantly delayed and you have to ask if the delay is causing additional expenditure.”
SODC’s cabinet was due to consider budget proposals last night and any recommendations need to be approved at a full council meeting on Thursday.