Council says ‘no’ to new school pool plan

A view of how the outside of the new pool at St George's Academy would look. EMN-180502-111621001
A view of how the outside of the new pool at St George's Academy would look. EMN-180502-111621001

The principal of a Sleaford academy is “heartened” by support from local councillors and the public for plans to build a pool and fitness suite, despite it being rejected by the district council’s planning committee.

Despite passionate support from Sleaford ward councillors Steve Clegg and Mark Suffield at North Kesteven’s planning sub-committee on Tuesday, councillors voted nine to six, with two abstentions to refuse permission for the £3.7m complex proposed by St George’s Academy at its Sleaford site.

A motion to accept the scheme was voted down nine votes to six before the final decision to go along with officers’ recommendation to refuse.

The pool would have been for use by the school’s own swimming education and sports, as well as being offered to the community for school and club use to serve a perceived gap in the town’s provision for local competitive swimming clubs.

Although not against a swimming pool in principle, officers referred to analysis by Sport England and were concerned that without stringent agreements about usage, it may harm the viability of the town’s existing leisure pool.

St George’s principal, Wayne Birks said: “I was very heartened by the extensive support received from a significant minority of elected members.

“It enabled me to highlight the key reason why negotiations between St George’s and officers of the council have been so protracted and why St George’s governors felt that elected members should have the opportunity to understand why we had reached an impasse with council officers. The key issue centres around the requirement for a Community Use Agreement, which is ordinarily used to maximise the amount of public use of school sports facilities. The council officers chose to interpret the principles of a Community Use Agreement for our pool as a pretext to minimising use by the community.”

There has been outcry at the decision, but also hope a compromise can be reached.