Two swimming pools look set to be built in Kirkby – on land first earmarked for a pool 80 years ago.
Ashfield District Council has unveiled plans to replace Festival Hall leisure centre with a new £14 million centre on a parcel of land described as a “disused eyesore” behind it.
The land was purchased by Kirkby Urban District Council – the forerunner to Ashfield council – back in the 1930s in the hopes of building a pool, but has stood empty ever since.
Now plans are set to go to cabinet members for approval to build a new centre on the site including a 25m swimming pool with adjustable floor, a leisure pool, climbing wall, sports hall and gym.
Launching the plans, triple Paralympic swimming gold medallist Ollie Hynd, from Kirkby, said he hopes the centre will breed the next generation of world champion athletes from Ashfield.
He said: “It is fantastic, we have had great success in swimming in Ashfield over the years, so to have a great facility on our doorstep is going to be a fantastic opportunity.
“Hopefully a lot of people in Kirkby are going to benefit from that and get into the sport. If the facilities are there, people are going to use it.
“It would have been fantastic to have had that facility on my doorstep, but I am passionate about passing it on the next generation.
“Hopefully the next generation of swimmers in Kirkby are going to be able to come here and learn to swim and some might take it up and represent their country - even them just being involved is fanatic.
“It is going to be great. I am going to use it 100 per cent. It has been a long time coming.”
Under the plans, Festival Hall – which was first built in the 1930s is now said to be “limited” and expensive to maintain – would remain open while the new centre is built, but would then be demolished and replaced with car parking, when it is due to open in 2021.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, council leader, said Kirkby residents have been promised a swimming pool for the last 100 years – and now the finances are in place to build one.
He said: “It is unheard of at the moment to see councils invest in leisure, but we see it as vital.”
The D2N2 local enterprise partnership has pledged £1.5 million toward the scheme, with council bosses confident of securing at least another £1m from another source.
The plans include a multi-purpose sports hall the size of four badminton courts, containing a cinema screen, as well as a café, cycling studio and a rehabilitation suite.
Theresa Hodgkinson, council assistant director for place and wellbeing, said: “We want it to be a community hub around health and wellbeing.
“We want to bring a generation through the centre.”
Hucknall’s leisure centre is also set for a £200,000 upgrade.
‘It’s a vanity project for Jason’
Labour had planned to build the centre at Ashfield Health and Wellbeing Centre on Portland Street, but this was shelved within days of the Ashfield Independents seizing power in April.
Councillor Cheryl Butler, Labour group leader and ward member for Kirkby Cross and Portland, which covers Festival Hall, has branded the new plans a “vanity project” for Coun Zadrozny.
She said: “Everything except the pools is how Labour planned. I’m concerned as, great as a pool is in one respect, the additional costs involved will not be good for council finances, especially when they are so tight at the moment.
“We have four council-run pools plus others like the one at Kirkby’s Ashfield School. No one has told me how much the pool has added onto the final price.”