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Flood threat to sport plan

PUBLISHED: 10:56 16 June 2008 | UPDATED: 07:28 01 August 2010

A MAKE-or-break meeting on the ambitious plan for a £6 million swimming pool and sports centre for Beccles will take place next week.

It revolves round the high flood risk category the land off George Westwood Way falls in.

A MAKE-or-break meeting on the ambitious plan for a £6 million swimming pool and sports centre for Beccles will take place next week.

It revolves round the high flood risk category the land off George Westwood Way falls in. That could stymie a scheme which, it emerged this week, could provide a 25m, eight-lane indoor pool, 60-station gym, fitness studio, changing rooms, café, and all-weather five-a-side football and hockey pitches with separate pavilion.

A two-lane bowling alley to attract young people is also being considered.

But the site south of the A146 by the quay has been classified in the highest flood risk category. It is in the “high risk” zone three, which means there is more than a 1pc annual risk of river flooding. The Environment Agency says such areas are generally not suitable for development, while the official government guidance says: “Only where there are no reasonably available sites in flood zones one or two should decision-makers consider the suitability of sites in flood zone three.”

Next week is due to see make-or-break talks with the Environment Agency that are likely to dictate whether the project can go ahead or has to go back to the drawing board.

The need for an indoor pool and extra exercise facilities was highlighted in a public consultation carried out by Waveney last year. Currently the town only has an ageing outdoor pool, and Beccles Ladies' hockey club is being denied the promotion it deserves because it does not have an outdoor pitch.

The scheme is being led by Waveney District Council and Beccles Town Council. Jack Walmsley, a town councillor who chairs the steering group, said: “I think you could say that next week is crunch time. What happens if we cannot proceed with that site is we are back to where we were, looking for a site. I have been working on that for seven years now.”

He said much would depend on whether the site ends up being classed as flood zone 3a, “high probability” or 3b, “functional floodplain”. The latter will put a stop to development, while the former will depend on the councils being able to prove there is no other possible site. Mr Walmsley says all other sites have been considered and are unsuitable or unavailable.

On Wednesday Waveney's community safety, wellbeing and health scrutiny sub-committee heard a report from Waveney's Vicky Collins in which she said: “A recent flood zone consultation undertaken by the Broads Authority and Waveney has categorised the site as flood zone three, which could prevent the site from being developed.”

In February the Journal reported that objections from the Broads Authority could stifle the project because they said there was not enough space for the pool and a long-planned hotel on the adjacent site. But plans for a hotel - which had been discussed for the last 17 years - have now been dropped to allow the sports centre to go ahead. Previously the town council had been planning to sell the hotel site to a developer for £300,000.

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