Anger at leisure centre reopening delay

TOP west Suffolk sports clubs have voiced their anger over lengthy delays in rebuilding a fire-ravaged leisure centre.Groups serving hundreds of youngsters and adults claim they have lost thousands of pounds and now face uncertain futures as work on the wrecked Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre is taking longer than expected.

TOP west Suffolk sports clubs have voiced their anger over lengthy delays in rebuilding a fire-ravaged leisure centre.

Groups serving hundreds of youngsters and adults claim they have lost thousands of pounds and now face uncertain futures as work on the wrecked Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre is taking longer than expected.

Officials at the renowned West Suffolk Swimming Club last night slammed the delays in rebuilding the centre following the devastating blaze there in September, which they say are caused by the speed individual contracts are being handed out.

Now the club has outlined fears over its future due to crippling costs of hiring a neighbouring facility.


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Don Neate, secretary and honorary president of the club, said: "We are currently losing about £1,600 every month.

"We have some reserves but nothing like that kind of money. The club serves a great purpose in the whole community and we are very unhappy with the way work seems to be progressing.

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"We are now faced with a further delay of four months and we will lose so much money in that time."

The massive blaze, the second to destroy the building in little over two decades, came as work on a £1 million refurbishment scheme was under way.

Bosses at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which recently handed management of its leisure centres to Abbeycroft Leisure, said the fire had inadvertently given them the opportunity to carry out widespread upgrades including the replacement of ageing boilers, while a new fitness suite and swimming pool is also planned.

The £4.5 million rebuild was originally planned for completion in September, but insurance and contractual negotiations have pushed back an official opening until January.

The swimming club's concerns were backed by leaders of the 300-strong Fighting Fit karate club, who spoke of their frustration over the delays. William Wappett said: "We have been forced to scrape around for a venue - I have had to almost knock on people's doors as a beggar just to try and get a place to go.

"It is a slow process and the completion date keeps getting put back. We have not been under threat but the whole thing has been very frustrating."

A spokesman for the borough council said: "The building work is continuing and on schedule for early next year. The closure, due to the fire, was regrettable but on the other hand, it has meant various improvements can be done a lot earlier than they would have been.

"These include a 25 metre pool, a new swimming timing system, better seating and improved changing room facilities. We are using the fire as an opportunity to make all the improvements in one hit."

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