A councillor has claimed demolishing Coalville’s former leisure centre and replacing it with housing is the right thing to do. It’s a move he says should be done ‘sooner rather than later’.
Councillor Stuart Gillard, who is the district councillor for the Hermitage ward on North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC), spoke out as meetings to decide the fate of the now-disused Hermitage Leisure Centre are held. Empty since February, several options for the centre in neighbouring Whitwick have been put forward, but no decisions have been made.
However, last week NWLDC said demolishing the decommissioned building was the most ‘likely’ outcome. It’s one that Coun Gillard believes strongly in too, despite the council previously saying housing wasn’t an option for the area.
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In a lengthy post weighing up the future of the site, the councillor said demolition was the best option. It’s a move he was keen to stress that should not affect the adjacent Hermitage Recreation Ground though.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to demolish the old Hermitage Leisure Centre, and do it sooner rather than later. I want to make sure that we keep the playing fields, astroturf and lake for local people. I also want to make sure we keep car parking for the residents who have relied upon it for so long,” he said.
“We could perhaps even improve them? Obviously that means the council would need to generate some funds and we could do that by using the footprint – and only the footprint – of the old leisure centre for a small amount of housing.”
Previously, NWLDC had said the site would not be turned over to housing when its replacement, the new Whitwick and Coalville Leisure Centre opened. However, housing is seen as one of eight options the council has put forward for the future of the Hermitage site.
It’s a move they believe is needed as it would cost at least £2 million to bring the former disused building up to safety standards – money the council believes could be better spent elsewhere. They also believe that houses could help aid investment in the area – something Coun Gillard believes too.
“Now I know some will say ‘we knew it, more housing’ but hear me out! We know there’s a real shortage of smaller homes for older people and the footprint of the old leisure centre is in the perfect spot for access to the businesses in Whitwick Market Place and Silver Street. We could build a court of sheltered housing to ensure local people can stay local as they grow older,” he said.
“And the beauty is we could kill two birds with one stone. If we’re building much needed socially-rented homes for older people on the footprint of the old leisure centre that could be paid for through the council’s housing revenue account which in turn would generate a capital receipt for improvements to the public areas elsewhere on the site. It’s a big win!”
Other ideas proposed for the Hermitage area include the creation of a new community centre with café or an ecology park. A skate park is also touted, while turning the former leisure centre into a community orchard or nature trail area is also put forward, but no firm decisions have been made.
The public is being given a chance to have its say on the future of the Hermitage tomorrow (Thursday, June 9) at an event hosted at the new Whitwick and Coalville Leisure Centre. This will outline the proposals to people, with the public then urged to have its say on a consultation that launches the next day.
Acknowledging that some people would not like the idea of housing, Coun Gillard believes demolition is the right thing. He says it’s an idea he will continue to push NWLDC on.
“I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but this is the case I’m going to be making at council in the coming weeks and months,” he said.