Tensions mount over ‘rival’ leisure schemes

Tensions mount  over ‘rival’ leisure schemes
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A COUNCILLOR has been accused of making ‘inaccurate statements’ after claiming committee agendas were often 90 per cent focused on Coleraine and its surrounding area.
The initial accusation was levelled by Glens representative Cara McShane during a debate on the oversight of projects aimed at bringing new leisure facilities to Coleraine and Ballycastle.
Causeway Coast and Glens Council is planning a new gym and swimming pool in Ballycastle alongside a joint initiative with the Education Authority to build a sports hall and pitches for pupils and the wider public.
The council is also planning a much bigger project to replace Coleraine Leisure Centre.
In January, elected members agreed both projects should be managed by a single six-member Project Board.
However, when members of the Leisure and Development Committee were asked to approve its terms of reference, Councillor McShane insisted the projects be treated separately.
“It's too big of a project to simply be subsumed within one group,” she said.
“I just ask that we are treated equally.”
Ms McShane said she accepted Coleraine needed new facilities to replace those built 40 years ago.
But she also suggested 90 per cent of agenda items focused on the old Coleraine Borough Council area.
In response, Director of Leisure and Development Richard Baker drew her attention to the fact that of the 11 reports before councillors on Tuesday, only three were related to projects in the legacy borough.
“I really wish she wouldn't make inaccurate statements like that,” he added.
He went on to point out that the decision to combine oversight of both projects was taken in the chamber by elected representatives.
“I act on councillors' instructions: nothing more and nothing less,” he said.
In the end, the committee agreed to defer further action until August when councillors would have an opportunity to review the initial decision to combine project boards.
In the meantime, members queued up to insist on the need for new facilities in both towns. But many agreed Coleraine's centre was long past its sell-by date
Among them was DUP Alderman George Duddy who argued that Coleraine must be the number one priority capital scheme over the lifetime of the new council.
“We are sitting with a leisure centre that's over 40 years old,” he said. “I wouldn't be surprised if it attracted more cockroaches than people.
“We all have our pet projects, but Coleraine is the largest population centre in the borough and it has the oldest leisure centre.” 
UUP Councillor Darryl Wilson added: “I use it sometimes but I try to avoid it.”
Members heard the preferred option remained replacing existing facilities on the same site.
It's understood the scheme could cost upwards of £30m.
The council is exploring management options which include outsourcing the running of the centre to the private sector.

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