The news that Trafford Council is set to reverse previous plans to build new leisure centres in Altrincham and Stretford will come as a bitter blow to Trafford residents. In proposals set to be discussed later in January by the Council’s Labour-led Executive, the existing leisure centres in Altrincham, Sale and Stretford are proposed to be refurbished. The news will be particularly concerning for Altrincham as the council is backing out of being the leisure anchor at the mix-use Altair development in the town.
The lack of investment from the council in its leisure assets contrasts sharply with other spending which the council has prioritised such as lending the owners of the CIS Tower in Manchester city centre £60m for a refurbishment and taking out a loan of £17.6 million to invest in four properties around Albert Square in the city centre.
Commenting on the news, Cllr. John Lamb, Shadow Executive Member at Trafford Council for Culture and Leisure said “Trafford Council has a vision which is ‘Working together to build the best future for all or communities / everyone in Trafford’. One of the council’s priorities is that Trafford has improved health and wellbeing and reduced health inequalities. The proposal for refurbished leisure centres will actually work against the council’s vision and its priority as it will make the council’s leisure offer less attractive to residents. The people of Trafford were expecting new state of the art facilities, but now are being told to settle for second best.
“There are also risks to the council from choosing the refurbishment route as there are potential unknown costs of redeveloping older buildings arising from structural issues for example. With new builds, the council could avoid unexpected costs and delays through greater certainty over building costs.
“The council could also look more seriously at other options to get new leisure centres delivered such as partnering with a private operator. Swimming is hugely popular in Trafford and private operators do not always offer swimming provision whereas Trafford Leisure does, so there is already scope to look further at a partnership model.
“The Conservative Group on Trafford Council is calling on the Labour administration to revisit these proposals and commence a wider review of the leisure offer in Trafford. The physical and mental health of Trafford residents is of critical importance, especially during the current pandemic and will not be enhanced by what Labour are proposing.”