Academy’s £3.7m pool plans under threat

How the new pool would look at St George's Academy. EMN-180123-104037001
How the new pool would look at St George's Academy. EMN-180123-104037001

Planning officers are advising district councillors to reject long-awaited plans for a six-lane indoor swimming pool facility proposed by a Sleaford school for its pupils and the wider community.

First floated five years ago, the £3.7m project would see a new, 25m six-lane indoor pool with spectator seating and viewing areas, changing rooms and fitness suite on four old tennis courts next to St George’s Academy’s sports hall.

It is designed to serve the academy as well as ease pressure on existing facilities for school and club swimming sessions by opening it up to the wider community.

A temporary access roadway leading from the existing service gate on The Drove would cross sports pitches during construction.

However planning officers have said North Kesteven District Councillors should refuse the scheme as they claim it could jeopardise existing community pool facilities at Sleaford Leisure Centre by creating more capacity for swimming than is needed in the area.

Sport England has maintained an objection as negotiations toward a Community Use Agreement for pricing and provision had proved inconclusive.

Residents had raised no objections about the pool, commending the offer for residents’ use.

The matter will be decided at NKDC’s Eastgate Planning Committee on Tuesday. In their report to members, the authority’s officers have argued: “There is no objection to the principle of St George’s Academy constructing a new swimming and fitness facility to serve the pupils of the school. However, the proposal relates to a scale of development that is dependent on wider community use to support its viability, but the applicant has failed to demonstrate that there is sufficient need for such additional facilities in Sleaford and the south of the district. As such, the proposal would put at risk the future provision of publicly accessible facilities by promoting an oversupply and undermining overall viability.”

Pointing to surveys, they state: “There is a threat to public facilities from an unneeded development.”

St George’s Academy principal, Wayne Birks responded to the report, saying: “My governors and I have worked for several years with officers of NKDC in order to seek agreement about moving forward with plans for a swimming pool. Unfortunately, we have as yet, not been able to find common ground and therefore governors wish to present our case directly to elected members for their consideration.

“We believe we have a strong case and hope members will see the merits of our proposals.”

The school had also argued that as well as local demand, there was interest from competitive swimming clubs from as far afield as Lincoln needing extra capacity.

Swimming is part of primary schools’ national curriculum. William Alvey Primary School headteacher Stephen Tapley said all his pupils use the town’s pool each year, but added: “It is easier in that we are within walking distance, if you have to get a bus that adds on extra cost and time.

“I know lots of children from Sleaford have to travel to Lincoln or Grantham for competitive swimming clubs or water polo. If the council and the school work together, St George’s pool could be used for things that cannot currently be offered.”

A spokesman for NKDC said the council seeks to encourage more active lifestyles for all, but said Sport England’s objections “have to be taken seriously”.