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Norfolk County Council admits Wensum Lodge blunder

PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 November 2010

Wensum Lodge sports centre, which is set to close.

Wensum Lodge sports centre, which is set to close.

Archant © 2010

Council bosses have admitted they blundered over how much it would cost to fix the closure-threatened sports hall at Wensum Lodge - overestimating the tab by £120,000.

Norfolk County Council last month said the hall, in King Street, Norwich, would have to close because the authority could not afford to carry out £500,000 worth of repairs on the building.

However, after groups which use the centre for sports such as badminton, keep fit and table tennis questioned that figure, council bosses admitted they had got their sums wrong.

They admitted the repairs would actually cost £380,000 - but stressed that the plan for the sports hall to close by Sunday, December 19 would not be altered.

Mike Britch, managing director of NPS Property Consultants, said: “Unfortunately we did make an error in the original figures and apologise for that - the actual figure is just under £380,000.

“The costs were assessed by the building surveyor who undertook a survey of the property and assessed the necessary repairs and maintenance that is required.

“Apart from these works that were originally listed, the building requires more essential maintenance and upgrade work - for example the boiler needs replacing while the fire detection and alarm system also needs to be upgraded.

“That would take the total cost to £430,000 to make the sports hall fit for public use.”

The council says it cannot justify spending that much money to maintain the centre, which dates back to the 1960s, at a time when the authority needs to find £155m of savings over three years.

Ann Steward, cabinet member with responsibility for adult education at Norfolk County Council has said the authority plans to sell the land where the sports hall stands - and defended the lack of consultation over the move.

She said: “There simply isn’t the money to do the repairs needed so there would be unavoidable health and safety issues were the county council to keep the facility open.

“Seeking more money for building repairs to the sports hall when we have to save at least £155m across all our services, including those to vulnerable children and adults, cannot be a priority at this time so it would be wrong to consult and give any impression that it could be.”

The squash courts may remain open under the ownership of the Friends of Wensum Lodge, and some of the money from the sale of the land must go towards funding similar sports facilities for community use nearby site.

Among the alternatives the county council has suggested for current users of Wensum Lodge are sports facilities at schools around the city, the East Anglia Tennis and Squash Club at Lime Tree Road, the Bob Carter Centre in Drayton, Easton College, Norfolk Health and Racquets Club in Drayton High Road, Hellesdon, the Oasis Sports and Leisure Club in Pound Lane, Thorpe St Andrew and the University of East Anglia Sportspark.

• What do you think of the decision to close the sports hall at Wensum Lodge? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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