Editors Blog: Spilsby Leisure Centre?
When I saw the headline on the Skegness Standard website I was, to say the least, surprised. A leisure centre in Spilsby?
A leisure centre in Spilsby certainly does sound an exciting prospect; there are currently no gym facilities and you have to travel to Skegness, Horncastle or Louth to go to a leisure centre. Brilliant! I would certainly use it, and I know my family would be keen to do so as well - especially if there was a swimming pool.
A fantastic idea, but what chances are there for a leisure centre in Spilsby - even a small one?
Is there a need?
First thing to consider, especially when applying for funding for any community project is does the community want a it? Is there a need? The (still unpublished!) Spilsby Town Plan asked about facilities such as this and there were very few people who mentioned this kind of facility - a few mentioned a swimming pool but nothing like the numbers needed to sustain one. However, I'm sure most people if offered the chance would jump at it and embrace such a venture. I know I would.
But let's not forget that Spilsby did have a swimming pool at one point.
Any spare change, guv?
The cost of Louth's Meridian Centre was approximately £12m so if you scaled that down to a leisure centre more akin to the size of Spilsby you are still looking at between £1.5m and £2m for a new build project and full kit it out. Then there is the cost of running the place... with the current situation we cannot expect any tax funded organisation to pick up the tab. That is not going to happen as the figures involved are not exactly loose change.
I recently spoke to a major leisure centre manager who told me that the majority of centres across the country who have swimming pools run at a loss due to the sheer cost of maintaining them, heating them, etc. This is one of the reasons why East Lindsey District Council has refused to fund a swimming pool in Mablethorpe, even when the building costs of the facility would be paid for by a third party, because of the not inconsiderable day to day running costs.
Would a private business run a leisure centre? Possibly, but it has to be worth their while economically and most leisure centres do not even break even let alone make a profit - which is why you rarely see a privately run leisure centre. Council's continue running them because it fulfils their need to help their residents remain fit and healthy but, as Sheffield City Council have recently shown, even major sports facilities are expendable in times of financial hardship. A community run centre is a possibility, but it would also need to be sustainable long-term.
National Lottery funding has also being mentioned, and there are plenty of other funders out there including local ones such as Lincolnshire Cooperative, but funding is highly unlikely to be available for long term running costs.
But you can go to Horncastle or Skegness, they cry!
One of the other reasons the Mablethorpe plan was rejected was due to being close to already existing facilities. It is 15 miles from Mablethorpe to the Meridian Centre in Louth. Spilsby is even closer to existing facilities - it is 11 miles from Spilsby to Horncastle, and 13 miles to Skegness. Other funders would also look at this fact - the catchment area is too small to sustain such a plan.
The other thing against Spilsby is both of these venues are accessible from the Number 6 bus. Whatever you think about the public transport in and around Spilsby this is a big obstacle for the plan.
But for goodness sake - don't give up!
Am I being negative about the plan? You may say negative, I say realistic because it isn't all negative. The idea is very good and highly commendable as an initial plan - it just needs some work.
One of the biggest issues with getting support for any plans around Spilsby is apathy. I was told recently by someone of very good standing in the community who has lived in the town for a vast number of years that the only people who go out of their way to do anything in the town are the 'newbies'. This was not the first time I'd heard this thought, nor the first person to express it to me. A little unfair I thought, but I think there is a kernel of truth in there somewhere.
Spilsby desperately does need something like this to improve. Part of the Spilsby area is ranked in the top 20% most deprived areas in the country for health and disability (Indices of Deprivation, 2010).
There was a gym in the town which, I gather, was relatively successful until other factors led to its' closure. I certainly know of quite a few people who were attending and have recently been asked about this by someone new to the area, so there is a need.
Perhaps it may be more realistic to look at improving the services provided at the Spilsby Pavilion, which for many would be an ideal location to develop (in both senses - the services and the facilities). Many other local areas are improving their facilities and introducing more features and this could be ideal starting point. There is plenty of funding advice and assistance out there for this kind of project, and not just from the National Lottery. With the right advice and funding there may yet be some hope for a small swimming pool in the town!
So please don't give up on this project or get disheartened should the knock back arrive - we'd all love to see a sustainable leisure centre in Spilsby, but we have to be realistic about our chances and tailor our cloth to suit.