Council's handling of axed £3.1m tennis hub project to be reviewed

Plans for a £3.2m community sports hub in Cromer have been submitted. Image: NORTH NORFOLK DISTRICT

Plans for a £3.1m community sports hub in Cromer which were scrapped after a lease and funding fell through - Credit: Archant

A district council's handling of a multi-million-pound project to build a tennis and fitness centre in north Norfolk which was later scrapped is due to be reviewed.

The Cromer Tennis Hub was a £3.1m project to build a multi-purpose tennis and fitness facility around the town’s existing tennis club site.

Plans for a new £3.3m sports hub in north Norfolk have prompted a mixed response among club members.

The Cromer Tennis Hub, was set to include three indoor tennis courts, a gym and a meeting space. - Credit: Archant

But in 2019, not long after the current Liberal Democrat administration took over NNDC, the scheme was scrapped after the lease required for building work to proceed was not secured and a £1.5m bid for external funding from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) failed.

A total of £788,000 had been spent on the project, but without the lease, LTA funding and to avoid a further estimated bill of £2.3m, the newly-elected council voted not to proceed with the scheme in August 2019.

An artist's impression inside the proposed sports hub in Cromer. Picture: NNDC

An artist's impression inside the proposed sports hub in Cromer wold have looked like - Credit: Archant

Following the decision and payment of a final sum to the contractor in July 2020, NNDC asked for a comprehensive audit to take place via the Norfolk Audit Partnership, to review the handling of the project and to identify any lessons that needed to be learnt going forward.

Now, the results of the audit which highlighted a number of areas of concern and graded the handling of the matter as  “no assurance” – the lowest of six possible gradings, are to be reviewed at a Governance Risk and Audit Committee (GRAC) meeting on Tuesday, March 9.

Judy Oliver, Conservative county councillor for Sheringham and Beeston Regis, said the audit results confirmed what critics of NNDC's current leadership "already knew".

She said: “I am disappointed that the council’s internal auditors have now confirmed what we already knew – once again NNDC has thrown money away, with nothing whatsoever to show for it.

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"The Sports Hub project would have established North Norfolk as a leading centre of excellence for sport – both playing and training – and brought huge investment into Cromer and the surrounding area.

She said the latest waste came on top of a "completely unnecessary management restructuring."

"NNDC’s leadership are currently sitting on important questions they are just not answering. Why not? We need answers now, otherwise the public’s confidence in NNDC will continue to be eroded,” she said.

Steve Blatch, chief executive of North Norfolk District Council, which has agreed a new manangement

Steve Blatch, NNDC's chief executive - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Steve Blatch, NNDC's chief executive, said the local authority welcomed the "comprehensive and thorough review" of its handling of the Cromer Tennis Club project from its inception to the decision to cancel.

He said: "Although there was much to commend the original project proposal, the council believes the decision to cancel was taken in the best interests of the residents of North Norfolk, due to the significantly increased projected cost to NNDC once the LTA funding was no longer part of the equation and as it became clear the land required would not in fact be secured."

The GRAC meeting with take place at 2pm on March 9, 2021.

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