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Councillors to discuss improvements to the city’s leisure facilities

Published: 24 January 2019

Councillors to discuss improvements to the city’s leisure facilities It is proposed to sell the Clifton Hill site for housing

Councillors will discuss improvements to the city’s leisure facilities and the sale of the former Clifton Hill Sports Centre site at a special meeting next week.

A report for members of the Place Scrutiny committee highlights how proceeds from the sale of the site in Newtown would be used to improve existing sports facilities in Exeter.

And it highlights the extent of works already carried out at leisure centres across the city.

Councillors are being recommended to back the sale of the Clifton Hill site for a mixed residential housing development. Purpose built student housing has been ruled out.

The report says £3m has already been allocated for improvements and upgrades at other leisure centres across the city.

It reveals that a further £4.4m will need to be set aside for repair works to the Riverside Leisure Centre.

The council has remained committed to reopening the swimming pool at the Riverside since it was closed when fire broke out in 2017.

During fire damage repairs works, major weaknesses to the integrity of the structure of the building have been discovered, and the Riverside will need a complete new roof and a rebuild of the floor structure around the pool area, the report reveals.

The full recommendations are that the council’s Executive approves:

  • Selling the Clifton Hill site for a mixed residential development to generate the best value capital receipt to offset the previously agreed costs of compensation, upgrades to leisure facilities and to provide investment for other council priorities, including the future development and improvement of other leisure sites.
  • Allocating a budget of £200,000 to cover the ground investigation works, marketing and selling of the site to deliver the optimal capital receipt to the council.
  • Allocating a further capital budget of £4.4m to allow for the full replacement of the flat roof and rebuild of the floor structure surrounding the pool at the Riverside.

The report also recommends the council’s Executives resolves to:

  • Delegate authority to the Director in consultation with the Portfolio Holder to agree the exact location and dimensions of an area of the Clifton Hill site, (a minimum of 10 per cent of the of the overall land area) to be retained by the council, in such a way that it does not unreasonably negate the value of the site. This is to ensure that a public, open green space remains on the site.
  • Delegate authority to the City Surveyor to take the necessary steps to ensure the Clifton Hill land is not used for purpose built student accommodation.
  • Note the good progress on the works associated with the £3m budget agreed for the essential enhancements to the fabric of leisure buildings and replacement of essential plant and mechanical systems and enhancements.
  • Note the need for further capital investment at the Riverside Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre.
  • Note that the draft Physical Activity and Built Facilities strategies, setting out the longer term sustainability and development plans for Riverside Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre, Wonford Sports Centre; Exeter Arena and ISCA Centre; Northbrook Swimming Pool and Northbrook Golf Course, are being recommended for public consultation. Final recommendations are due to be presented to council in July.

Councillors voted to permanently close Clifton Hill last year after severe snow falls compounded pre-existing problems with the building.

Following representations from Newtown ward councillors on behalf of local residents, consideration has been given to the concerns expressed about the potential loss of the informal public green space on the site.

The Scrutiny report states: “In order to respond to local residents and ward councillors’ concerns, it is strongly recommended that a specific area of the site, in the vicinity of the current informal green space if possible, is retained by the council.

“The size of this land should be a minimum of 10 per cent of the total land area. The exact size and location of the site for retention by the council will be formally agreed prior to the sale.

“The selection of the site to be retained should be done sensitively to protect flora, fauna and wildlife habitats and to ensure it does not impede access to the site for development and minimises devaluation of the site.”

The report highlights good progress on improvements to other city council-owned leisure facilities:

  • Wonford Sports Centre - the programme included internal decoration and refurbishment to the weights room and gym area, all new fitness equipment and a brand new virtual spin studio. It also included a complete refurbishment of the Astroturf all weather pitch and the surrounding fencing, essential enhancements to the fabric of the buildings and replacement of essential plant and mechanical systems.
  • ISCA Centre - the refurbishment has created a new expanded gym facility along with improvements to the changing room and a new virtual spin studio has been created in the old gym area within Exeter Arena.
  • Riverside Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre - the work included refurbishment and conversion of the café, soft play and reception areas to create a new membership sales office, a yoga/ quiet workout space, a virtual technology spin studio, a virtual technology workout studio and extension of the gym to include installation of a functional fitness rig.
  • Pyramids - completed works include structural repairs to the roof, refurbishment to the family, male and female changing rooms, decoration to the vending area, reception and dry changing rooms. The final element nearing completion is the installation of a new air handling unit on the roof.

A link to the full report is here

Councillors will discuss the report at a meeting of the Place Scrutiny Committee on January 31.

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