Pooling resources

THE ongoing Aquarena saga took another turn when the council announced the proposed £22million budget for the new pool would have to be slashed by £5million.

According to my sources at Worthing Swimming Club, the initial plans, to be built on the site of the existing paddling pool and Peter Pan's playground, included the provision of a main, 25-metre, eight-lane competition pool, with a variable depth facility and gallery seating for 250 spectators.

In addition, there would have been a second pool for diving and general teaching.

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Unfortunately, due to a breakdown of the development of the Grafton Road site, the council said there was a shortfall, hence the budget cut.

The revised plan has a leisure pool and a six-lane, 25-metre pool with no variable depth, just a deep and shallow end.

The seating has been cut to 85, and whilst the current pool has car parking for 85 spaces, aside from six disabled spaces, there will be no provision for parking.

The irony of the new plan is that despite, at 17million, perhaps the biggest capital outlay in the council's history, my source at the swimming club state the council would be better served keeping the existing pool, with all its ongoing problems, because it would still be a better option than the new pool.

Durham Council has just built a state-of-the-art pool complex, on which the Worthing one is apparently modelled, re-iterated by the fact a delegation from Worthing Borough Council and the architects flew up to the north east, funded by the good old council tax payer, to look at it.

All well and good until you discover the Durham project cost 12million in total.

Now, I know there is the issue of the north/south divide, but is 5million extra stretching the point?

In fact, how far north should we class Watford, as they recently built a pool complex along the lines of the "new Aquarena" alongside a brand-spanking, new leisure centre '“ and the whole cost came to 12.5million.

Why are the people of Worthing being saddled with not only an alleged inferior pool to our existing one, but at several million pounds over what other councils are paying around the country?

Clearly, there are two sides to every story, so I look forward to the relevant councillor replying to the points raised in this column.

And by way of a sub-plot to this issue, can anyone at the council tell me why Worthing Swimming Club is the only swimming club in Sussex charged VAT by the local authority from which they hire their relevant pool?

Again, my sources at the club, which caters on a weekly basis for more than 400 local members of all ages, inform me the council wrote to them in May, 2007, to tell them that, due to the council exceeding their VAT allowance, they would have to start making the charge.

Are the large number of other councils actually wrong in what they are doing?

Ian Hart's comment is published in the Herald series every Thursday


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