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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Referendum over plans for new £10m sports centre in Cumbria

Workington will have its referendum into controversial plans to build a £9.41 million sports centre on the Cloffocks.

Denis Robertson photo
Denis Robertson

The decision to hold the £9,000 parish poll was taken yesterday following an almost unanimous public vote.

Denis Robertson, an Allerdale councillor for Moorclose, is fighting the leisure centre plans amid claims the site agreed by the council executive in November is unsuitable and potentially dangerous.

The question put to voters within the next 25 days will be: ‘Should the borough council (Allerdale) build a leisure centre on the Cloffocks – yes or no’.

Mr Robertson’s key claims are that the:

  • The Cloffocks is a flood plain and building there would potentially “put lives in danger”;
  • The area was illegally coal-mined in the late 1700s and the ground is contaminated;
  • The Lonsdale Estate owns the mineral rights which may delay the project or make it more expensive;
  • The Moorclose community would suffer if their leisure centre was to close in favour of this one.

He also claimed the development would harm wildlife, lead to traffic and parking problems and undermine private gyms.

Most people at the meeting voted in favour of the poll, with a show of 17 hands.

But Allerdale’s Seaton councillor Andrew Lawson spoke out against it.

He said: “The borough council don’t have to listen to this poll. It’s not legally binding.”

But Mr Robertson said the poll was justified, claiming Allerdale Council’s consultation exercise had been “flawed” and that people had been left confused about the exact location of the site.

Several people expressed concerns about flood risk.

Linda Newberry, 60, now of Salterbeck, used to live on Griffin Street on the Cloffocks. The terrace has now been condemned and demolished She said: “I would watch the river coming up our walls. It used to happen regularly. Building here is madness.”

Robert Dowthwaite, 67, of Edinburgh Avenue, said that the site was right in the original path of the river Derwent.

But the council has said that a flood risk assessment and investigations relating to historic mining and contaminated land at the Cloffocks had been considered by the council’s executive before the location for the sports complex was chosen.

A poll would be paid by the town council.

Allerdale council is not required to revisit its decision for any reason.

Notice of the poll will go to democratic services this morning.

Meanwhile, Mr Robertson and Independent councillor Stephen have started a petition to save the existing sports centre at Moorclose. So far they have collected about 850 signatures.

Mr Robertson said: “We have lost the sixth form. It looks like we are losing the school. The loss of our leisure centre would be another nail in the coffin.”

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