Hold up on Marina Centre plan puts groups in limbo

The Marina: Leisure and Fitness Centre in Great Yarmouth.Picture: James Bass

The Marina: Leisure and Fitness Centre in Great Yarmouth.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A multi-million pound upgrade of Great Yarmouth's Marina Centre has been put on hold while councillors dig into the detail look again at options for the seafront site.

The delay means that Retroskate and the indoor bowls club can stay on until at least December while plans are worked up and bosses decide which way they want to go as all the options, including a new-build elsewhere, come back into consideration.

Council leader Graham Plant said members wanted to run a fine toothcomb through a scheme put forward last year after Sentinel Leisure Trust won a 15-year contract to manage leisure services in the town, as well as review other options.

The proposed £7m remodelling unveiled in September by the council, Sentinel and their partners Pulse, meant eviction for the county cup winning indoor bowls club and put a question mark over the future of Retroskate who were asked to come up with their own business plan, while adding a spa, gym and aqua slides.

Both groups held their hands up against the plans saying they would kill the popular sports and all the social and friendship connections that went with them.

Meanwhile the council held back on making a decision, leaving the groups in limbo.

This week, however, Mr Plant confirmed the brakes had been put on the whole process amid concerns about the benefits the proposed changes would bring and at what cost.

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Mr Plant said the council was asking Sport England to help it with facts and figures that could have a bearing on the centre's case and where any investment would be best spent.

He said he wanted to take a long hard look at the figures to be certain as to whether spending up to £8m of ratepayers money was the right thing under the proposals that were being put forward.

His understanding was that while the whole intention was to reduce the £600,000 management fee to zero in five years what was being put forward indicated the council would still be stumping up £200,000 at the end of 15 years, after the investment.

He said: 'What we have to find out is what is the best financial option and what is the best option for the community.

'Obviously there is an issue with bowlers and businesses already being there plus also where we invest that kind of money.

'We want to be sure that what is being offered is the best value and that we are providing something sustainable.'

Rollerskaters who turned out in force for the full council meeting last week were told they could stay on beyond their November gala, one of the main events in the sport's calendar.

Director Donna Wicks hailed as 'really positive' any delay that would give the community interest company more time to show what it could do, guaranteeing another season for club members.

She said Retroskate wanted to stay on the seafront, the home of roller skating for generations, and ideally expand the rink, taking over the cafe. 'It's all positive in that it gives us longer to prove what we are saying,' she added. 'The club can stage its gala and the children can know their championship season can happen.'

However bowlers say they need a full season up to April 2017 to enable them to enter national, county and league competitions ahead of a March 31 deadline, and are pushing for an extension.

Chris Ames, head of business development at Sentinel, said the operators would support the council in whatever option it chose.

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