Council defends scaled down pool design, responding to accusations of it being “a sub-optimal, boring, out of town swimming box”

Ely’s new swimming pool will not have water flumes due to costs – but it will have transferrable play equipment for children’s activities instead, the councillor responsible for the development has told Spotted in Ely.
Councillor Richard Hobbs, of East Cambridgeshire District Council, was responding to criticisms about the scaled down design for the new pool, which resident Benn Gibbs has described as “a sub-optimal, boring, out of town swimming box”.
Mr Gibbs asked why “one of the fastest growing and increasingly wealthy cities in the UK” was not getting the pool promised in 2011 “coincidentally just before the elections”.
The new design will cost less than half of the £28 million initially planned.

Ely Leisure Centre Main Entrance
Initial plans for the new sports centre included water flumes and “leisure water”.

Ely Leisure Centre Aerial View
Initial plans for the new sports centre included water flumes and “leisure water”.

Initial plans for Ely Leisure Centre, submitted by Roberts Limbrick Architects with planning approval granted in March 2011, included a 25m, six-lane pool with half-length moveable floor, leisure water and flumes, a wet area with spectator provision, a six badminton court sports hall, a fitness suite with 100 stations, a wet health suite, two squash courts, a studio and multi-purpose rooms, a children’s soft play area and ancillary facilities including changing rooms, toilets, reception and a cafe. Parking for about 200 cars was envisaged.
Initial costs were estimated at £28 million. These were scaled down to £18 million and then revised to £13.6 million.
Construction of the new leisure centre, on the edge of Ely, north of the A10 and west of the B1411 Downham Road, has recently been given the green light, following a £1.5 million grant from Sports England.
The revised, scaled down plans include an eight lane 25m swimming pool, a learner pool with moveable floor, a health and fitness suite with 120 stations, two activity studios, a four court sports hall and a 3G artificial grass pitch.
Revised plans for Ely Leisure Centre.

Revised plans for Ely Leisure Centre.

Revised plans for Ely Leisure Centre.

Cllr Hobbs, chair of ECDC’s Commercial Services Committee, said: “The initial plans to install flumes into the new leisure centre have been excluded on the basis of cost.
“We will be using transferrable play equipment for children’s activities, to make the pool adaptable for many different purposes.
“The exclusion from the facility mix has been supported by both Sport England and the ASA. [Amateur Swimming Association]”.
Responding to concerns about how accessible the out of town leisure centre would be, Cllr Hobbs said there would be strong pedestrian and vehicle connections and access to the site, which will be adjacent to the new cinema complex.
“The site also includes a circulation area and lay-by for bus and taxi drop-off and collection. A bus lay-by is also being provided within the cinema development to assist with extension of the Ely City Service (Stagecoach service 15).”
London-based contractors Pellikaan will be responsible for constructing the leisure centre, which will be managed by GLL, a large leisure trust operating over 200 leisure facilities across the country, including Parkside Pools in Cambridge.
The Ely Leisure Centre is due to be completed in early 2018.

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