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“Intention was always to retain a leisure centre”

Times Echo and Life / All News / “Intention was always to retain a leisure centre”
7 months, 26 days ago1 Comment.
23 DEC

“Intention was always to retain a leisure centre”

By timesecholife on in All News, Latest News

A council has clarified its stance on leisure facilities in Cheadle as it continues planning the town’s regeneration. Robert Wilks, lead for leisure at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC), spoke to community leaders at a Cheadle Stakeholder Panel meeting last Wednesday (December 15) as councillors and group members met with SMDC officers over the progression of proposals.

A council has clarified its stance on leisure facilities in Cheadle as it continues planning the town’s regeneration.

Robert Wilks, lead for leisure at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC), spoke to community leaders at a Cheadle Stakeholder Panel meeting last Wednesday (December 15) as councillors and group members met with SMDC officers over the progression of proposals.

Addressing outside concerns of the potential loss of South Moorlands Leisure Centre in Cheadle, Mr Wilks said: “The intention was always to retain a leisure centre in Cheadle, that was always the stop position.

“The question of whether there would be one or wouldn’t be one was scaremongering that had grown that really wasn’t in our control.

“Whenever that has been asked, which it had been asked a couple of times, the response has been very clear.

“The brief to our consultants in the work that I’ve been doing has been focused solely around what’s next for Cheadle, not the fact that there wouldn’t be any provision at all.”

Mr Wilks outlined the three steps he – along with Tim Mills of FMG Consulting, who wasn’t present at the meeting – was approaching the regeneration of leisure in Cheadle: “What does Cheadle need; Where will it go; How will we deliver it.”

He explained that work has already been carried out in understanding the supply and demand of the area, such as looking at what the demographics in the population are, what it may grow to be, and who do and do not use the leisure centre.

A number of clubs and groups who use the leisure centre have also engaged in initial dialogue while health partners have also been engaged with.

Mr Wilks said: “That has led us to a position now where it still is unclear how community health services or health and wellbeing services could be delivered.

“But what has become really clear is that the aspiration to deliver more from the leisure centre that addresses health and wellbeing is really, really important, so that’s clear.”

Several possible alternate sites for a leisure facility were identified, Mr Wilks underlining that they have always only been “potential” locations.

He said that something that had become apparent through a survey conducted with Cheadle residents in the summer, as well as feedback from other consultations, is the desire for the South Moorlands Leisure Centre to stay put.

“Generally speaking, people want the leisure centre to stay where it is,” he explained.

“It a good site, it’s got all the added benefits surrounding that such as the open spaces, the pitches, the 3G site, ThorleyDrive, Cecilly Brook as well, so that’s come out loud and clear.”

Mr Wilks went on to state that this has allowed SMDC to have reached a point where it can focus work on understanding cost implications for residents’ preferences and how it can finance them.

He added: “What that will allow us to do is take that work to the next level in terms of understanding that, if it is one site and that is the current leisure centre site, what are the implications of that.

“Because quite clearly we’ve got a building there that is currently operational.

“If we’re potentially looking at building a new leisure centre in its place, there is going to be some serious logistical issues there.

“All of the cost implications that come as a result of that need to be understood.

“So we’re reaching a point in time where once cabinet have made that decision, we are able to move forward into that phase of the process.

“For me, reflecting on the last six months or so, we’ve actually reached where we would like to reach at the right time. And that’s really positive.”

Mr Wilks added that with further resident and partner engagement, SMDC will be able to cater to the specific needs, where it is needed.

Cheadle Stakeholder Panel chair cllr Ian Plant said: “As I’ve always said, it’s the site that has been outlined by local residents, the users themselves.

“You’ve said as things are moving forward you can go to the next stage where there may be plans – hopefully we can present them then.

“As long as people can see that end product – and if the place has possibly got to be closed for a period of time, they can see that end product – then I think people will be happy.

“It’s on the same site that people want.”

Cllr Plant and fellow SMDC councillors cllr Kate Martin and cllr Gary Bentley thanked Mr Wilks for his work and hisreport.

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1 Comment

  • Well I personally think he's lying, the intention all along from SMDC's town centre plan was to level Cheadle and build as many houses as they can, everywhere, they even wanted to build all over the main car park. They were planning to fob the people of Cheadle off with promises of new facilities but the people of Cheadle aren't as stupid as they thought. I'm proud of the response of Cheadle residents to this. They understood that new didn't necessarily mean of equal standard or better. They knew not to trust SMDC as they would try to give us a room with one new exercise bike and call it a new leisure centre. There needs to be some serious investigation into how much was spent on a town centre plan that didn't consult the town and what exactly the instructions from SMDC were to them to achive and why. I think the money wasted on that plan is resignation worthy for some at SMDC. Why was every response to build houses. You also have to question the head of SMDC's ability when comments are made that they they don't have a budget for the project because they don't know what the project is yet. That's awful incompetence, there's no point recommending building a new leisure centre if you've only got £100k to spend, a new leisure centre will cost over £20m, but if you've got £15m to spend then you could look at it and look for external investment too. You need to know what's available to focus the process on the right improvements.
    Written by Mark, December 26, 2021 - Reply

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