Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Result of £9,000 Cumbrian leisure centre poll ‘not legally binding’

Thousands of pounds worth of public cash to fund a referendum into controversial plans to build a leisure centre in Workington could be flushed down the drain as the results are not legally binding.

Workington leisure centre gym graphic
An artist’s impression of the new gym at the centre

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

Allerdale council, which is pressing ahead with plans for the multi-million pound development to go on The Cloffocks, has no obligation whatsoever to take the outcome of the public poll into account.

The facts have came to light following a decision made earlier this week for the £9,000 referendum – which is to be the responsibility of Workington town council – to go ahead.

Independent councillor for Moorclose, Denis Robertson, has been lobbying for a public poll ever since the borough council’s executive committee voted to move the leisure centre away from his ward and build a new one on the Cloffocks last year.

He said that the referendum would cost the equivalent of 25p per person in the town and that it was money well spent.

However, the council’s executive is “not required” to revisit its decision for any reason and has “no obligation” to consider the results of the poll.

The authority says it held a thorough consultation regarding the preferred site which saw Brow Top – which stretches onto The Cloffocks – being the favourite.

A council spokeswoman said: “One element of the evidence base was the results of a public consultation – the residents of Allerdale were given three options for the type of leisure centre they would like to see on one of two sites, Brow Top and Moorclose.

“Of more than 1,600 people who responded to the consultation, the majority said they would prefer the Brow Top site.”

She added that all residents, parish and town councils, local businesses and stakeholders were invited to give their views during the consultation which would be considered as part of the final decision making process.

But Mr Robertson believes that the council’s consultation was flawed as it misled members of the public regarding the exact location.

“How can six people (Allerdale executive) make a decision as big as this?” he said. “I know a referendum costs money, but I just can’t understand how those seven councillors can take the decision on an issue that concerns a lot of people.”

He added that the £9,000 cost would be small compared to what the authority paid to carry out the consultation which involved a number of outside bodies.

“I truly believe the majority of people in Workington, if given the opportunity, want the leisure centre to remain in Moorclose,” said the councillor. “This is money well spent and as far as I am concerned it’s democracy. For 25p per person in Workington this is their chance to make a decision.”

Mr Robertson claims that the site is unsuitable and “potentially dangerous” as The Cloffocks is a flood plain.

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.

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


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