Whew – panic over. Yesterday, following a report in the Express & Star, I wrote of my concern that the old leisure centre at Oak Park in Walsall Wood would be demolished before a new one was built to replace it.
I’m glad to share with you all that this isn’t, in fact, the case, and the old centre will remain open until the new one is operational.
Since the new centre is being built on the playing field behind the current one, it would seem madness to demolish the existing, functional one before the replacement had become operational, indeed, as Rob Sollom pointed out, this intention was noted on the plans for the site included in the post, so at my earliest opportunity, I asked Walsall Council on Twitter what the plan for the construction actually was.
[Added Friday, 22nd August, 10:55am]
Today, Walsall Council issued the following press statement:
Visitors to Oak Park Leisure Centre are being assured that the current facility will stay open until the new development is finished.
At Special Council on Monday 11 August Walsall’s councillors agreed to go ahead and replace two of the borough’s old leisure centres.
They agreed to award the £23.8m contract to ISG Construction to replace the leisure centres at Oak Park and Bloxwich.
At Oak Park the new centre will be built on land to the rear of the existing centre which means the current building will remain open throughout the construction and will not close until the new centre is ready.
At Bloxwich, the old centre does need to be demolished first so that the contractor can have full and safe access to the site. This is a cheaper, easier and safer option.
Alternative provision will provided via Gala Baths, Darlaston Swimming Pool, the Education Development Centre (EDC) at Rushall as well as several other sites, the detail of which is being discussed. Further information will be released at a later stage.
Councillor Sean Coughlan, Walsall Council leader, said he wanted to reassure visitors to both centres that they would not be left high and dry during the work.
‘There have been misleading reports that suggest Oak Park will be demolished ahead of the new facility being built and this isn’t the case,’ he said.
‘The existing centre will stay open up until the new one is ready.
‘We would have liked to do the same at Bloxwich but this just isn’t possible. We are continuing discussions to make sure people can access a host of other facilities during that time.
‘While we appreciate there will be some short term inconvenience, the end result will be worth it and we’ll have two centres to be proud of, that residents of all ages will enjoy using.’
[Thanks to all involved for that statement, it really is appreciated – Bob]
This afternoon, they responded in full:
@BrownhillsBob Hi. Oak Park's new centre is being built on land to the rear of the existing one ....— Walsall Council (@WalsallCouncil) August 21, 2014
@BrownhillsBob So will stay open until the new one is finished and ready. This can't happen at Bloxwich however.— Walsall Council (@WalsallCouncil) August 21, 2014
@BrownhillsBob Bloxwich will have to be demolished to give contractor full and safe access to the site...— Walsall Council (@WalsallCouncil) August 21, 2014
@BrownhillsBob But alternative provision will be made. Full details will be announced once discussions have been had. Hope this clarifies.— Walsall Council (@WalsallCouncil) August 21, 2014
So, it seems to have been a bit of ambiguity in the original newspaper report that caused the misunderstanding, but it’s good to have the straight deal in black and white.
I’d like to thank the press people at Walsall Council for their help with this – that this project is going ahead at all is a matter of great surprise and delight to me, and I guess I’m wary of anything that appears untoward.
Thanks to all those too, who commented and shared on social media. It’s nice to know there’s such a wide interest.