Controversy has erupted after a council agreed in principal to work with a developer on a potential £9.3 million leisure centre in the Nuthall Greenbelt.
Fears have been voiced that such a scheme would sound the death knell for the Eastwood and Kimberley Leisure Centres, with those ultimately closing.
Earlier this year, a proposal for a huge multi-million pound Oxylane sports village — minus the leisure centre — were rejected by Broxtowe Borough Council.
It was decided in a six-to-five vote that it didn’t provide ‘very special circumstances’ to grant permission to build on the 50-acre greenfield site off the A610. Notts County Council also objected.
But before an official notice was received the company withdrew its application, paving the way for it to be resubmitted.
Now it has suggested a new initiative that would include a state-of-the-art leisure centre on the same site — with the facility run by the council on a ‘peppercorn’ rent on a lease of 125 years.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Broxtowe councillors agreed to ‘engage with the developers as necessary in order to help with the submission of an outline planning application’.
But Nuthall representative, Cllr Philip Owen, dubbed the whole situation a ‘toxic cloud’.
If an Oxylane site was built, it would be the first in the UK. As yet no fresh planning application has been submitted.
But a report to Cabinet confirmed that if the new leisure centre was given the green light, the council would no longer run Eastwood and Kimberley leisure centres. The sites would return to the control of the comprehensive schools which own them.
Nuthall councillor Paul Simpson said: “If that happened I couldn’t see them (the older leisure centres) lasting very long. I don’t see how the schools could afford to keep them open so I believe it’s inevitable they would close.”
Questions were raised over the message the Cabinet decision will send to the planning committee, which is likely to pass judgment on any future application. Cllr Simpson called for ‘openness’.
But the Cabinet report states that its decision is ‘entirely without prejudice as to whether planning permission might be forthcoming for the scheme. The development control system must remain resolutely independent’.
In any event, any future planning bid will ultimately be decided by the Secretary Of State because the site is in the Greenbelt.
The report to Cabinet suggested that ceasing to run the old leisure centres and taking on the new facility — with 25m swimming pool, teaching pool, sports hall, fitness suite, aerobics/dance studios, health suite with sauna and spa facilities — would in fact save money.
The two current leisure centres are more than 30 years old and are losing money each year, it has been claimed.
The director of Oxylane Village, Luke Fillingham, said: “It’s not for me to plan the long-term services of the council.
“Opportunities have arisen from this and an opportunity could be taken by the local authority. If that’s good for the project, good for local people and good for us I don’t see what the problem is.”
Mr Fillingham went on to say he felt the previous applciation was not ‘fully understood’, and he is trying harder this time around to ‘better illustrate the plan’ by highlighting its features.
It is claimed hundreds of jobs would be created by the potential overall Oxylane plan, more than 5,000 new trees would be planted on site, and £2.7m would be invested into the road network – easing traffic and congestion, according to Oxylane.
A spokesperson for Broxtowe Borough Council said it was ‘far too early to determine the detail or outcome’ with regards to the proposal or the future of Eastwood and Kimberley Leisure Centres.