Plans for new Swanage leisure centre kicked into touch

A proposal to build a large multipurpose leisure centre at the football ground in Swanage in Dorset, has been scaled back and a new plan for a smaller community centre is now in the running.

Swanage Town and Herston Football club is asking Swanage Town Council, which owns the land at Day’s Park, to fund the £40,000 cost of drawing up new plans and submitting a planning application. The aim is to get the new facility built by 2026 or 2027.

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Swanage football club

The sports hall at the football club in Days Park has been closed since 2020

Years of delays

Following years of delays, it has become even more urgent to find a solution to replace the decrepit indoor sports hall at the football club, after it was closed down in 2020.

This was initially due to Covid pandemic restrictions, but never reopened because of its poor state of repair.

Holes in the roof have let in the rain, causing the floor to be slippery and the issue was further complicated by the presence of asbestos in the roof, which has made simple repairs impossible.

People looking at the football redevelopment plans

The consultation in 2019 for the much more ambitious leisure centre plans

Scaled down version costing £2.9 million

Just before the pandemic, a public consultation was held in 2019, in conjunction with Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust, which proposed a new leisure facility including a sports hall, clubhouse, changing rooms plus a public café, permanent soft play area, purpose-built gym, fitness suite and an enterprise hub.

A 3G synthetic football pitch and new spectator facilities were also part of the package. It was even mooted that the sports hall could be designed to host indoor music events like a symphony orchestra performance.

But with the cost estimated at around £9 million and no major grant funder like Sport England coming forward, a scaled down version costing around £2.9 million is now the football club’s preferred option.

plans for community hall at football club
Swanage Town and Herston FC

The new concept plans show that the new community hall will be similar in scale to the current sports hall

plans for community hall at football club
Swanage Town and Herston FC

Similar facilities to the current sports hall are proposed

New proposals include:

  • 4G training area
  • Sports hall (smaller)
  • Kitchen
  • Football changing rooms
  • Gym and hall changing rooms
  • Large storage for table tennis, badminton/soft tennis, gymnastics and indoor football
  • Clubhouse and café
  • Fitness suite

This means that many of the facilities like a permanent soft play area, purpose-built gym, an enterprise hub and a flexible event space, that would have provided an income stream will not be included in the new plans.

While the proposal is now cheaper to build, it’s not clear how it will be financially sustainable in the long term. A business case has not yet been publicly submitted alongside the plans.

Swanage Town Hall

Meeting at Swanage Town Hall, High Street on Monday 29th January 2024

Town council meeting

Councillors will consider the request for funding the new architect’s plans at a Swanage Town Council meeting, starting at 7 pm on Monday 29th January 2024 at the town hall. It’s expected that the football club will attend to make its case for the new proposal.

The initial request is for £13,200, followed by a further £26,522 subject to further information that demonstrates that the project is deliverable, bringing the total to £39,722.

At the meeting, councillors will be asked to decide whether they wish to delegate the release of the additional sum to the town clerk in consultation with the town council’s sport, leisure and wellbeing working party.

This would mean that the decision on whether the project is deliverable or not and the release of the extra funds, would not come back to a public meeting for scrutiny.

Swanage and Herston Town Football pitch

Plans for a synthetic 3G football surface are off the agenda but the current pitch drainage has been improved recently along with new flood lights

Local sports club consulted

In a report by the town clerk, submitted to the council for background information it says that local sports clubs have been consulted:

“An invitation was sent to a wide range of local sports clubs to attend a meeting at the Day’s Park clubhouse on the evening of Thursday 4th January 2024.

“Attendance was limited, partly due to the appalling weather conditions, but, nevertheless, badminton, gymnastics, walking football, table tennis, croquet and Purbeck Runners were represented…

“During the discussion that followed, questions were asked about funding and usage. Despite some reticence due to the number of proposals that had ultimately not been delivered over the years, the clubs expressed broad support for the proposed way forward.”

Swanage football club sign

The club hopes that the new proposal will give it a clear way forward

Specialist company

The football club has already found a specialist company, Jade Aden based at Holton Heath, to design and build the new community hall, however this is controversial because usually work goes out to tender when public money is involved. The reports says:

“It should be noted that the town council has not requested the football club to undertake a procurement process prior to the engagement of their chosen consultant.

“Whilst this may have been desirable it is not essential, provided that the contractual relationship remains unambiguously between the football club and their selected company.”

In a further document submitted ahead of the council meeting, Nick Spetch on behalf of the football club concludes in a letter to Swanage Town Council:

“The football club is committed to working with the community, funders, Swanage Town Council and Dorset Council to deliver a much needed facility for the town and I hope we can move ahead.”

Further information

  • The agenda for the Swanage Town Council meeting along with the supporting papers ( See page 55 for community hall documents)
  • Specialist contractor Jade Aden
  • Swanage Town and Herston Football club website

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