Sunday, 19 April 2015

Swimming Pool proposals - an update

Lynn and I are committed to a full consultation with residents over whether there is support for a community swimming pool.  Personally both of us would like to see a community pool built somewhere along the A56 - potentially at Helsby High School.  It would be a pool that would serve Frodsham, Helsby and the surrounding villages and communities.  In essence it would be a pool for the Helsby High School catchment area.

However as such a pool would cost of the order of £3m as well as having substantial on-going running costs - we have to be clear that such a pool would be both affordable and that it would be used, if built by the community.

Sport England (and Active Cheshire) advise that the minimum catchment area for a community pool is a population of 13,000.  They also advise that around 90% of community pools run at a loss.  The population of the High School catchment area is of the order of 18,000.  Frodsham's population is around 9,000.  Frodsham is not in a position to 'go it alone.'

Now whatever we may think of Peel's various plans us and the land on the Mersey Estuary - there will be substantial community benefit funds being made available.  However even though these funds will be substantial - they do not cover the capital and running costs for building a pool.  Peel is currently considering offering around £2,000 per MW of nominal output of their wind farm for each of the next 25 years.  The nominal capacity is 50MW.  Therefore the minimum offered payment each year for 25 years would be £100,000 per year.  £100,000 is around the parish council budget for Helsby Parish, or around half of the Frodsham Town council annual budget.   If we are to have a community pool - we will have to find funds elsewhere too.

Lynn and I have already secured the interest in the scheme of CWaC.  CWaC are carrying out a feasibility study.  The initial thoughts from CWaC are that the community benefit funds would need to be invested in the pool.   However the decision about how such funds are spent is not for CWaC to decide.  Also even if all these monies are put into supporting a pool it is clear that additional resources would have to be raised.

In our view - the starting process for this has to be learning what the community want in a comprehensive consultation.

Lynn and I want to see the community asked specifically whether they support the community benefit  monies being spent on a single project - like a swimming pool - or on other lots of other schemes.  One of the attractions of investing in a single project is that it would minimise the costs of administering the funds.  From the discussions we have had it is clear that whilst there is significant support for a pool there are also lots of other good ideas out there for these monies.

You may recall that at Frodsham's Xmas Festival on 30 November 2014 Lynn and I, with Graham Evans MP ran a stall that sought to test the level of support for a community pool.   Nearly 400 people signed the petition - saying that they would support a community pool for Frodsham.

In addition to this local support we have support from Graham Evans, our council colleagues in the adjacent wards in Helsby, Kinglesy, Gowy and Elton.

In January 2015 we set out on our page in Frodsham Life what we saw as the potential 'route map' for securing a community pool.  This is what the page said:

The good news for the community is that all the Conservative candidates - whether for Parliament, or for the Borough Council wards of Frodsham, Helsby, Kingsley, Gowy and Elton - all support the idea of a community pool - and that it is and must be for the community to decide whether or not there is support for the community benefit monies being spent on a pool.

The other 'news' is that in addition to the community benefit funds for the wind farm there will also be further community benefit funds if Peel builds the Ince Resource Recovery Park and the Hapsford Solar Farm.  Whilst Ince has planning permission - the solar farm does not.

Lynn and I secured a commitment from Peel to provide a community benefit fund for the Ince scheme (none of the Labour Cllrs for the adjacent areas or the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston seemingly sought this nor did the Labour Secretary of State who granted the original planning permission.)  We do not yet know the size of those funds.

If there is community support for a pool, a business case for it will have to be developed.  If there has to be a subsidy from the council tax to support a pool we will also ensure that local residents are consulted again.

[promoted and published by Andrew Dawson & Lynn Riley on behalf of themselves - all of WVCA Unionist Buildings, Nicholas Street, Chester CH1 2NX ]