Olympic pool was 'wishful thinking'

HOPES of building a new pool complex in Ipswich have today been derided as “wishful thinking” after spiralling costs placed the project in jeopardy. Last week The Evening Star revealed that plans for a new pool complex in the town suffered a serious blow when it emerged Ipswich Borough Council faces a £13million shortfall if it wants to create a new Olympic sized pool opposite the Portman Road football ground.

HOPES of building a new pool complex in Ipswich have today been derided as “wishful thinking” after spiralling costs placed the project in jeopardy.

Last week The Evening Star revealed that plans for a new pool complex in the town suffered a serious blow when it emerged Ipswich Borough Council faces a £13million shortfall if it wants to create a new Olympic sized pool opposite the Portman Road football ground.

As a result the Tory-led council is now looking to plough up to £400,000 into the creaking Crown Pools complex while funding options for the new centre are looked at.

The situation has provoked criticism from political opponents.

John Mowles, Leisure spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council's Labour group, today said: “There has been a little bit of wishful thinking and aspiration rather than considered thinking on this.

“I think the council got carried away with the idea.

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“Sometimes the council makes public statements without finding out how much it is going to cost.

“It would have been a good idea if people's hopes weren't raised.”

A feasibility study has put the cost of the Portman Road complex at £26m - far in excess of the £18m suggested in early consultants' reports.

Since only £13m will be raised by the sale of the site, which currently serves as a car park, the project is now in doubt.

Problems with securing Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grants and the cost of the council moving to unitary status, which will see it assume responsibility for running some services previously run by Suffolk County Council, have contributed to the problems.

Judy Terry, councillor with responsibility for culture and leisure, denied the council had been indulging in “wishful thinking”.

She said: “The reason we had to look at the prospect of building a new pool was because John Mowles was responsible for leisure under Labour and never maintained Crown Pools.

“A preliminary report put the cost of a new pool at £18million and that would have been affordable.

“It is unfortunate that hopes were raised but at the time we did it we thought it would be an excellent exercise to improve the facilities in the town.

“We are still looking for other opportunities for funding.”

The borough council is set to discuss its policy on the new pool in September.

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