Published: Wednesday, 29th June 2022
A proposal to work up detailed plans for a £multi-million bid to give Hunstanton a new leisure centre has been approved by the borough council’s cabinet.
On Friday (24 June) morning the cabinet agreed recommendations to make the replacement of Oasis the preferred option to bid for up to £20m of Levelling Up funding.
Cllr Stuart Dark, MBE, leader of the borough council, said:
“Our recent survey asking people what they thought about bidding to replace the Oasis showed that there is overwhelming support for a new and improved leisure facility. In just two weeks more than 1,000 people responded.
“The Oasis has been a good servant to Hunstanton but its time has passed. We need to do something now or a generation of young and older people will lose out on the chance to benefit from good quality facilities that support physical and mental wellbeing.
“So the question for me is not so much why would we do this but why would we not do it?!”
Cabinet members considered a report that described how the current facility would require significant short-medium term maintenance investment, while a new, more energy efficient, building would have lower running costs. It identified a range of benefits from a new facility, including enhanced employment opportunities, an increase in participation and the knock-on benefit of reducing isolation.
Several letters of support for the bid had been received and Cllrs Kemp and de Whalley also attended cabinet and spoke in support. Cllr Kemp supported the Oasis bid, as a public facility, with an offer to improve health and wellbeing for all in the borough, emphasising the continuing need for affordable entry for residents, including young carers and young people in care.
James Wild MP had written saying:
“This project could give Hunstanton a state-of-the-art new leisure and entertainment centre that would benefit Hunstanton, and North West Norfolk as a whole. The ageing building was designed originally to support the summer economy. Now we have an opportunity to secure capital funding to create a new facility to boost the all-year-round visitor economy, support jobs, regeneration and improve local health and wellbeing.
The Mayor of Hunstanton Town Council, Cllr Maureen Howard, offered the council’s ‘full support’ and added:
“This is altogether excellent for the attractiveness of the town to residents, visitors, and our overall economic wellbeing and we are most encouraged to learn of the very large response to the public consultation exercise.
Further letters were received from the chair of the new Hunstanton Advisory Group, Charles le Strange Meakin, and the local county councillor, Cllr Andrew Jamieson.
Several options for Levelling Up applications were considered, with the recommended option being to make the Oasis the preferred scheme. The cabinet also approved a budget of £100,000 to work up detailed proposals.
Friday’s special cabinet meeting also considered two other major projects affecting the borough.
Members of the cabinet agreed to support the county council’s Levelling Up bid for up to £50m to improve transport in King’s Lynn.
Cllr Dark said:
“We welcome the proposal being put forward by Norfolk County Council and are pleased that, out of their 2,000m2 administrative area, they have chosen King’s Lynn as the focus for their £50m Levelling Up bid.
This bid comprises schemes that complement the projects we are already bringing forward under the Town Fund. We are very much in support of any schemes that could help reduce congestion in the town and bring about improvements to air quality as well as improving opportunities for people to travel in an active and clean way.
“I look forward to working with Norfolk County Council as the bid progresses and want to thank officers both at county and within the borough for putting this bid together.”
It was also agreed that, subject to the project adjustments being approved by Government, the Guildhall Business Case be supported for sign off by the Town Deal Board and submitted to government. This is a £12m project, for which £8m is being sought from the Town Deal. It was broadly agreed that the Guildhall is a significant heritage asset that should receive investment and that the community should remain at the heart of the project. Its potential as a beacon to attract visitors from far and wide was acknowledged, as was its role within the community to support skills, youth engagement and cultural development.
Cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, Cllr Graham Middleton, speaking in support of the proposal, asked that all community groups and users get behind the proposal as the substantive plan supported by both the leaseholder and the freeholder of the site. He confirmed that the plans have been developed with ongoing, extensive consultation with users and other stakeholders.
Cllr Middleton said:
“This is an exciting project that could really boost visitor and tourism numbers locally, as well as providing a fantastic venue for the local community. The plan has been developed to ensure that it is financially sustainable in the long term and supporters local creative businesses.”
Cllr Dark added:
“West Norfolk has benefited from millions of pounds of recent investment and we plan to bid for more to help us deliver exciting new projects, which shows that we are a thriving and ambitious borough.
“We are making west Norfolk a place of opportunity where people choose to live, work and visit.”