CHARD NEWS: Council rejects Cresta business plan put forward by campaigners
SOMERSET County Council has informed campaigners hoping to take on the running of the Cresta swimming pool in Chard that it has “regrettably” been unable to accept their business case.
The authority recognises the ambition, efforts and intentions of the Kingfisher Community Pool campaign group and the enthusiasm shown by the local community. Before transferring any asset to a community group the council has a responsibility to carry out due diligence checks and be satisfied that the transfer can happen without a risk to the public.
Officers reviewed two earlier drafts of the business plan, with support from finance and legal specialists, and provided feedback to the group. The final business case was considered in great detail and assessed on principles of feasibility, viability and sustainability.
Detailed reasons for the council’s position are being provided to the group’s representatives, but hinge on concerns about optimistic predictions of costs and income, a lack of contingency, unrealistic estimates regarding insurance costs and unclear plans for repairs and maintenance.
The pool, which is owned by the council, has outlived its planned lifespan by more than a decade and now needs more than £1m of investment to replace failing equipment and to bring it up to standard.
Due to significant financial pressures the council is not in a position to fund this work. A decision taken in August allowed time for the community to come forward with a fully-costed and workable business case for transferring the pool to community ownership while ensuring the safety of all visitors.
The council’s spokesman for economic development, planning and community infrastructure, Cllr David Hall, said: “We were keen to see the community proposals work and our decision not to accept the business case in is no way a reflection on the effort that has been put into this.
“But, as a responsible organisation, we have to carry out due diligence. Unless we are completely satisfied that the transfer could happen without risk to the public we cannot not let it go ahead. It has to be feasible, viable and sustainable – and, unfortunately, we do not believe that is the case.
“Officers have provided support and guidance, given all the information they were able to give and sign-posted the group to where other information could be found.
“We have invested considerable time and effort, but unfortunately what we cannot invest is money. Providing leisure facilities is not a county council responsibility and in these very difficult financial times we just cannot afford the costs of keeping this pool open.”
Regeneration plans for Chard launched recently by South Somerset District Council include a pool as part of leisure facilities.
More news on this later.