Thursday, 21 February 2013

Leisure centre redevelopment is an opportunity we must get right.

Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have lots of fond memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre which has been an essential asset to the community for the best part of forty years. I remember attending many a children’s party where we went swimming and finished with bangers and mash in the cafe. As a former member of Cornwall Athletic Club I used to use the athletics track or sports hall every week.

The Leisure Centre was threatened with closure about ten years ago and there was a passionate local campaign to save it for the community which resulted in the existing Carn Brea Leisure Trust taking over the facility from the local council. It has been a great success and is often held up as a model that other leisure centres elsewhere in the county should follow. For all these reasons, I am taking a great deal of interest in proposals from two potential companies to redevelop the site.

I think there are a number of principles we should apply. First, we should recognise the proposals as an opportunity rather than a threat. It is an opportunity to secure millions of pounds of new investment to complete the transformation of the Pool area with plans for a new retail centre that could attract destination names such as Next and M&S. It is also an opportunity to completely rebuild a new leisure centre and a brand new athletics track. It would add momentum to regeneration of Camborne, Pool and Redruth which is now taking shape.

However, to make the most of this opportunity we need to use the proceeds of any deal on the right priorities. Firstly, we need to make sure that a new athletics track is built to replace the existing one. The track at Carn Brea is the only eight lane track in Cornwall and is the most used. Cornwall Athletics Club is going from strength to strength and new clubs like Carn Runners and Hayle Runners are also growing and make regular use of the track. I favour the idea of doing something jointly with Camborne Academy and Camborne Rugby Club which might benefit all parties.

Secondly, we must seize the chance to build a brand new leisure centre rather than simply refurbish the existing one. The current building has seen better days and needs a new roof and the swimming pool is once again in need of investment. Opportunities to deliver a full rebuild of a new leisure centre don’t come around very often so we must rigourously test the current assumption that a refurbishment is all that can be afforded. The proceeds of any land sale in Camborne and Redruth ought to be reinvested in the area.

George Eustice can be contacted at or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.