A final decision over whether cash-strapped Walsall Council should proceed with plans to build two new swimming pools in a move to improve leisure facilities will be made this week.
Planners have already approved schemes to rebuild the existing baths and gyms at Oak Park, in Lichfield Road Walsall Wood, and at High Street, in Bloxwich.
Leisure chiefs have prepared four options including builder smaller centres in a bid to save money, after it emerged that costs had rocketed by £3 million to nearly £24m. The cabinet will consider the projects on Wednesday.
The options are to build two new leisure centres at Oak Park and Bloxwich; build a new leisure centre at Oak Park and carry out a £2m refurbishment at Bloxwich; build a new leisure centre at Oak Park and carry out a feasibility study looking at what can be provided at Bloxwich without encroaching onto nearby Leamore Park; build two new smaller leisure centres at Oak Park and Bloxwich.
Walsall Council’s head of leisure and community health Chris Holliday said: “Substantial research has been carried out with residents, councillors and partner organisations to consider how the council’s leisure services can be configured to encourage more people to be more active, more often and therefore have a positive impact on the overall health of the borough’s residents.
“Four options are now being put before cabinet for them to consider and decide on the way forward.” The council wants to build the new centres replace dated facilities and tackle the borough’s obesity problem. It was originally expected to cost a total of between £15m to £21m, but the cost has risen to nearly £24m.
It is estimated that the annual health related cost of physical inactivity in Walsall is at least £5.7m.
Designs for the new Oak Park centre include an eight-lane swimming pool while Bloxwich would get a six-lane, 25 metre pool.
The construction work for the final scheme is due to be carried out by ISG Construction PLC. The borough has two other leisure centres, in Victoria Road, Darlaston, and Walsall Gala Baths, in Tower Street. Willenhall Leisure Centre was closed in 2010 despite efforts by campaigners to keep it open after council bosses selected it for closure because it was the authority’s poorest performing leisure centre.
The council is facing £21m budget cuts in this financial year and 277 job losses.