Green light for £28million leisure and entertainment investment for Ellesmere Port and Northwich

Members of the CWAC Executive gave unanimous backing to both projects after considering the report of a four-hour Corporate Scrutiny Review of the procurement and consultation processes involved.

The Scrutiny Committee accepted that there was a difference of opinion with regard to the needs assessment utilised and that three consultants had concluded that a 50-metre pool was not needed to meet demand in Ellesmere Port.

Reassurance was sought that value for money was being achieved through the North West Construction Hub procurement framework but it was accepted that no further funding beyond the capital budget would be available.

Whilst welcoming the investment Councillors Justin Madders and Louise Gittins questioned whether the authority was getting value for money in view of reports of a £10m lifestyle centre, with a 50-metre pool scheduled for Crewe.

Said Councillor Madders: “I would guess that none of us will know until the end how much these two schemes will actually cost, or how much it could have cost if we had gone somewhere else.

“People still have unanswered questions. I don’t think these questions will ever be answered satisfactorily, which is a shame.”

Members received a full report on the competitive process used to appoint companies to the Hub and an ongoing scrutiny of costs generated during the design and construction phases.

Said Councillor Stuart Parker, Executive Member, Culture and Recreation: “Value for money isn’t simply about cost – it’s about being fit for purpose, ensuring that the companies we use are financially viable, and that they have the right scale of warranties in place to protect the Council.

“Furthermore we also require that they use quality systems, and that they have the right level of experience, and importantly that they are using local labour and suppliers where appropriate.

“Wates, our successful contractor, has received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, A Major Contractor of the Year Award, A Business in the Community Award and an Investors in People Award.”

And Councillor Parker added that whilst £10m had been allocated for the Crewe proposal, no information was available on how the estimate had been calculated.

Local Swimming Clubs and their supporters had called for a 50-metre pool at Ellesmere Port to replace the proposed 25-metre pool and at Northwich, for an eight lane pool instead of a six-lane model.

But Council Leader Mike Jones said that as much as he and the authority would have liked to have met the swimming clubs aspirations it would have cost significantly more to build and run. That money was not available.

The Council was only able to do what it was doing because of its prudent financial management which had saved £100m since its inception and allowed it to re-invest £40m into front line services.

Expenditure of £30m would entail interest payments of £1.5m a year for 25 years to fund the capital investment – a level of expenditure designed to enable Brio Leisure to break even on the facility.

Councillor Gareth Anderson, Vice Chairman of Corporate Scrutiny told members that the former Ellesmere Port Borough Council had agreed to spend £14.9m on a smaller facility.

“We should certainly not feel short-changed in £30m of spending” he said. “This will be the first major investment in leisure facilities in Ellesmere Port in my lifetime.”

  • CWAC will provide an iconic £15 million sports and leisure village for Ellesmere Port which will include an eight lane swimming pool, an eight court badminton hall, seating capacity of 1,400 and an 80 station gym.
  • Future expansion will also include an indoor athletics straight and an upgrade of the all weather football pitches on the former Stanney High School site.
  • In Northwich, the new Memorial Court will be a premier cultural and recreation venue in the east of the Borough.
  • It will include a six lane swimming pool, spa, 80 station gym, dance studio and a moveable floor in the learner pool to provide flexibility and to accommodate additional swimmers.