£21m Five Towns leisure plan approved

editorial image

A new state-of-the-art leisure centre for the Five Towns has moved a step closer after it was granted planning permission.

Wakefield Council wants to build the facility, complete with a 25 metre swimming pool, a gym, tennis courts and a football pitch, at Pontefract Park.

The £21m plans could still theoretically be called in by the government because of the scale of the development, but a planning committee last Thursday was told that was unlikely to happen.

Although the centre will be situated on greenbelt land, the council successfully argued that “special circumstances” meant it should be built.

Will Charlton, from consultants Arcadis, who represented the council said: “There is a growing demand for leisure centres and there is a clear public benefit in terms of helping people to live healthy lifestyles.

“This offers the opportunity to promote the Five Towns as a leisure destination and it’s been supported by Sport England, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Football Association.

“Throughout the public consultation we’ve listened and tried to accommodate people’s concerns where possible.”

A total of 43 letters of objection were made against the application, and there were five letters of support.

Opposing the leisure centre, Andy Taggart said he reluctantly accepted it would be built, but argued that pockets of people isolated from good public transport would be unable to get to it.
He said: “In all the documents there’s no mention of help for all the hotspots of disadvantaged people living in the Five Towns, who are not going to have equal access to this facility.

“This could have a negative effect on their mental health.”

It was also suggested that the council should have invested in several local facilities rather than building one large leisure centre, following the closure of swimming baths in Knottingley and Castleford in recent years.

But the authority said that running those two venues had cost them an annual sum of £500,000, compared to the estimated £100,000 a year it will take to run the new leisure centre.

The plans were approved by a margin of six votes to three.