Meeting on bid to build Halesworth sports centre

Halesworth Campus sports project.

Halesworth Campus sports project. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Plans to improve sporting facilities in a north Suffolk market town have taken a step forward with the announcement of a ‘preferred operating partner’ for the new centre.

Halesworth Campus is working on multimillion pound proposals to bring new life into the town with health, sports and education facilities at the site of the former middle school off Harrisons Lane.

And at a public meeting on Tuesday, Sentinel Leisure, which runs Bungay Pool and Gym and Water Lane in Lowestoft, was unveiled as the charity’s preferred partner to run the facilities.

Trustee Simon Weeks said: “They are much more than just a company that manages a sports centre, they are an organisation interested in helping developing communities.”

Sentinel Leisure Trust managing director Stuart Everett warned the audience of around 60 that sustainability would be key to the long-term success of the project.

“We have been brought in at the conceptual phase so any design put forward is sustainable to build and sustainable to operate,” he said.

“What we want to do is advise you that it’s not just about the build, it’s about the ongoing legacy.”

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But not everybody at the meeting was happy with the proposal to build a 20-metre pool, which many members of the public felt would not be long enough to meet the community’s needs.

“That view has been made clear to us,” said Dr Weeks. “We do understand. It’s all very well to put up demands and wishes but unless we can fund them sustainably, we won’t do it.”

As it stands, the charity still needs £400,000 to build the facilities it has planned, including the shorter pool, and is still looking for ways to raise the money.

Halesworth swimmer Neil Howell was among those who expressed their concerns. “I can’t see how anything other than a 25-metre pool would be advantageous,” he said. “Most of the pools are like that now. I probably wouldn’t use the 20-metre pool, I could get across it in a couple of strokes.”

Dr Weeks said: “We would rather have, if it comes down to it, a 20-metre pool in Halesworth than no pool.”

He said a survey the Campus group had done showed there was ‘strong demand’ for a pool which could be used for aqua exercise, children’s swimming and by older people. And although a 20-metre pool could not be used for galas or competitions, he said there was still a need for it and that there was not enough money to fund and run a bigger pool.

“We’re doing our best and we will not commit to something that’s not going to be sustainable,” he said.

Suffolk County and Waveney District Councillor for Halesworth Tony Goldson said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of Halesworth.”

He encouraged residents to ‘get behind’ the plans and give Halesworth Campus all their support.

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