St George’s Academy appeals against swimming pool refusal

How the new pool would look at St George's Academy.
How the new pool would look at St George's Academy.

St George’s Academy is to appeal against a decision by North Kesteven District Council planners to refuse its plans to build a new £3.7m swimming pool and gym for use by its students and the community.

The academy’s Principal, Wayne Birks has formally lodged the appeal with the Planning Inspectorate after the council’s rejection in January last year.

The swimming pool and fitness suite plans would have also required a temporary construction access road from The Drove.

A hearing will be held into the appeal on a date yet to be confirmed when the academy and NKDC can state their cases and be informally questioned by a Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State while considering representations when determining the appeal.

In refusing St George’s Academy application, the authority had stated there was no objection to the principle of constructing a new swimming and fitness facility to serve the pupils of the school.

However, the council objected to development’s dependance on wider community use to support its viability, claiming the applicant had failed to demonstrate that there is sufficient need for such additional facilities in Sleaford and the south of the district. As such, the council said the proposal would put at risk the future provision of publicly accessible facilities by promoting an oversupply and undermining overall viability.

Sport England had insisted on safeguarding the existing public facilities by way of a ‘Community Use Agreement’. However, the council had been unable to conclude any agreement with the applicant.

In their grounds for appeal, the Academy strongly rejects the claim that it failed to evidence a case for the provision of the proposed development and accusations by the authority that it mades “general and unsupportable assumptions regarding need and/or unmet demand that are in significant doubt”.

The academy calls upon the Inspector to test the robustness of their needs assessment. The Needs Assessment evaluates current supply and demand within the greater Sleaford area and identifies a significant amount of unmet demand that cannot be met by existing swimming pool provision in the catchment. This comprises: 12 to 15 hours per week of competitive swimming training for Lincoln Pentaqua; 10 hours per week of a ‘Learn to Swim Academy’ which would include lifeguard, teachers rescue, and Swim England courses that are not delivered anywhere else in the area at present. Club swimming competitions cannot be accommodated by other pools either, it states.

They add that there the local authority-owned pools in Sleaford are already operating at, or over, ‘comfortable capacity’. The precise nature of the unmet demand could be agreed with the local authority and its appointed

management contractor under the terms of a formal Community Use Agreement, to ensure that there is no adverse impact upon the existing pools.

The academy would also use the pool for curricular and extra-curricular needs of its students.

The academy’s case goes on to say that the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan makes provision for an additional 4,435 dwellings in Sleaford up to 2036. Additionally, the Plan provides for a 10 to 15 per cent increase in village populations, generating a population increase of 11,334 people by 2036 within the greater Sleaford area.

The assessment concludes that to meet demand, there should be another a 25m six-lane pool with the depth ranging from 1m to 2m, starting blocks and timing touch pads for swimming competitions, spectator accommodation for up to 200 people and be open to accommodate community use.

In its documents the academy says it intends to hold further discussions with Sport England on the content of its updated Business Plan and an associated Community Use Agreement prior to the hearing which it says is robust and demonstrates the long-term viability of the proposal.

The Academy wishes to work with North Kesteven District Council and its appointed leisure management contractor to provide a range of opportunities and pathways for the community to encourage greater sporting participation and physical activity and increase the range, quality and number of Academy sports club links and to stimulate competition that is inclusive of young people and adults;

They aim to provide affordable access to the facilities and to be self-financing in terms of community use that complement and supplement those run at other local swimming pools.

The new construction would involve the loss of four of eight old tennis courts. The academy’s documents explain that the use of the swimming pool by the students and general public through the Community Use Agreement would be more intensive and extensive than the courts it replaces. The proposed swimming pool could provide a minimum of 40 hours per week for the community, whereas there is no community use of the tennis courts, so the benefits would outweigh the loss of four hard standing tennis courts, it claims.