Leighton Buzzard’s hopes of getting a new leisure centre have received a funding boost – but the future of the existing Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre has been placed in doubt.
A meeting of Central Beds Council’s Executive heard that the draft capital spending programme for 2020/21 to 2023/2 has allocated £16m for improved facilities in Leighton Buzzard, with around £12m detailed for work in Houghton Regis – although it remains to be decided how that money will be spent.
In 2014 the council invested £2m in Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre, Linslade, and relaunched it as lifestyles@tiddenfoot, but the public and local councillors have been calling for a second leisure centre to meet the demand from Leighton Buzzard’s growing population for some time.
But while it appears the money earmarked for Leighton Buzzard would be used to build a new centre, Tiddenfoot could be disposed of rather than Leighton-Linslade benefitting from two venues – “a price worth paying”, according to Leighton Buzzard South Cllr Amanda Dodwell.
The £28m expenditure for Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis was confirmed by Conservative councillor Richard Wenham, who’s the executive member for corporate resources.
Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling told the committee he welcomed the funding announcement.
“With the extra housing and the huge growth of the town, now towards 45,000 going on to 50,000 residents, we need extra facilities rather than replacements,” he explained.
“The way this is written makes it look as if it’s going to be replacement facilities.
“Unless it actually gives us much increased capacity, it will do nothing to solve the problems we have with the current centre,” he warned.
Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “CBC is conducting a facility strategy review for leisure.
“Part of that will be looking specifically at the growth within Leighton Buzzard and will recognise the unmet need of leisure facilities in that area.
“Anything we build and develop will take into account the specific growth in the town.
“At present, I have asked officers to look at the viability of what we do with the old facilities. It’s whether a new facility can meet the entire demand or whether we need to keep some of those older facilities in place.
“It maybe we will come together with a scheme similar to that in Flitwick, where we have an entirely new facility and then dispose of the old one. That remains to be seen,” added councillor Dalgarno, who’s the executive member for community services.
“It will come through the leisure strategy which will provide you with the opportunity to have your say in the coming months.”
Councillors approved the capital programme for the next four years.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Amanda Dodwell told the LBO: “I am clearly delighted that we are seeing some movement towards providing a new leisure centre in the town, and that funds have been allocated in the draft capital spending plans.”
“I understand the council is potentially looking to provide a facility modelled on the new leisure centre in Flitwick. This is a first class sports and leisure centre, and would meet the needs of our growing town.
“It is my understanding that if our new leisure centre were to be similar in design to Flitwick, there would be a saving on professional fees and delivery of the project could be relatively quick.”
“There has not been any decision on the future of Tiddenfoot, and I hope that we can continue to get some return on the investment made a few years ago through school and club usage.
“However, the priority needs to be to provide a new, modern leisure centre for the town, and I think that if this ultimately means that Tiddenfoot is disposed of it will be a price worth paying.”
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