JANUARY 27 will see the end of the consultation on the county council’s preferred site on which to build the new multi-functional centre in Ashington, or leisure centre as the council like to call it.
We all remember the furore when the council tried to close the centre and but for the voice of the Ashington people it would have closed.
Now the administration has pledged a £20m investment in a new centre which is welcomed by all.
But let’s just look at how the council want to spend this £20m.
Firstly, it wants to use either the old hospital site or the former Asda site, neither of which it owns, so from the £20m some money will have to be lost in buying the site.
However, the present leisure centre site is already owned by the council and would cost nothing.
The council wish to house the library, registrar, a doctors surgery, clinic and other council functions in this building, all of which again reduces the money available for sport.
The argument for this centre is that it will regenerate the main street. But how can removing the library, registrar etc from the street help the street?
Let us compare what the council say will definitely be in the new building with regards sport.
A swimming pool and a gym/studio space. After that it’s a lottery for the other sports for the money left.
However, a refurbished current leisure centre can guarantee the following sports a home – the bowling club, a new swimming pool and learner pool, gymnastics, football in the largest indoor sports hall in the north east, health and fitness, accommodation for all the martial arts, children’s soft play area, the list goes on.
In fact, everything that you are being asked to choose from can be delivered now at half the cost.
The arts are also mentioned. These could be housed in the former Co-op which has been refurbished, including the former dance hall that has been brought back to life.
The administration should have bought this building when it had the chance.
The remaining money, £10m, could be used to regenerate the main street, which as we all know, is suffering with shops closing.
If as the council say moving council services will help the regeneration process, then put them on the street.
Finally, some organisations are fearful that if they speak out against the county council plans then they will remove the money.
It would be political suicide to do so and will not happen.
I would urge all members of the public who agree with me to make your voice heard, use box 9 of the consultation document to say so.
COUN JIM LANG
North Seaton and Newbiggin West Ward