Ships and Castles, Falmouth cabinet makes final decision

Ships and Castles leisure centre will close tomorrow after a last minute bid to get the decision by cabinet reversed was rejected.

At an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet this afternoon members voted to endorse the original decision to close the leisure centre on March 31.

Labour councillors Laurie Magowan and Jayne Kirkham successfully called-in the decision by cabinet members to close Falmouth’s Ships and Castles Leisure Centre on March 31 on the grounds that the cabinet did not have in front of it all the information necessary to make that decision.

A customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee agreed and referred the decision back to cabinet which met at 3pm this afternoon.

In its referral the committee asked the cabinet to consider three points:

a) The cost of closure and security

b) The impact on the old, the young and the disabled

c) The environmental, social and economic impact of the decision, including the potential for partnership working between the bidders and the availability of alternative funding schemes.

But members of voted again to endorse the closure of the centre saying having seen the actual information it was clear that it endorsed what they already knew, that the centre was too expensive to run.

Cllr Richard Pears said: “We have now all seen the figures and they are too high the cross party committee in no way challenged the figures did not go into closed session. The advice we received previously was correct do not believe we could come to any other decision

He said that they were working with Falmouth area members to secure a viable and positive future for Ships and Castles and he and the strategic director had already had a positive meeting with Falmouth Town Council on March 15 on future of Ships and Castles and Pendennis Headland to look how sustainable, fit for purpose, leisure centre could be provided for residents of Falmouth and Penryn area.

But Cllr Laurie Magowan told cabinet members that, for him, and a lot of people in the Falmouth area this process had been a “disaster” with a “disregard” for the views of members of the public.

“The draft leisure strategy is not fit for purpose the attempt to close and put the profit of a private company GLL before the health and wellbeing of members of the public.”

He said the bidding process had been “frustrating” and “difficult” with bidders unable to access information and the closure would have “very significant, negative impacts on the community.”

He asked if the cabinet leader thought that this process met the required standards of public administration.

Replying on her behalf, Cllr Pears said, while pointing out that GLL was a not for profit company, that while he understood this was an “emotive” issue he thought the cabinet had adhered to the process.

“This is in no way a rushed procurement,” he said. Members had had extra time to consider and to call it rushed was a “gross mischaracterization”.

“People talk about this pool as is if it is the be all and end all,” he said. “Frankly it is not fit for purpose. In most of my conversations with people in the Falmouth, the conversation has been about ‘A leisure provision’ ‘A pool’ not this pool.

“Everybody I talk to says ‘Well obviously Ships an Castles has a huge amount of problems’ but that’s not what we are attempting to address here. People are fixated on the idea of a pool but most people understand it is not this pool. This pool has 300 members in a conurbation of over 40,000 people in it. This is a very, very underused facility.

“We want the result of this to be that Falmouth ends up with the sort of pool it needs, something that is fit for purpose and does serve the community properly and we should stop throwing good money after bad in my opinion.”

Rejecting his synopsis, Cllr Peter Williams speaking on behalf of the Surf Lifesaving Association Cornwall, said this decision was going to “damn us” as councillors for the rest of our lives.

He said Gyllyngvase and Maenporth Surf Lifesaving Club would have nowhere to go if it was closed.

“They are never going to forgive what you do today if you decide to close Ships and Castles without engaging with the community interest company who are prepared to take it on and the local members,” he said.

Falmouth Packet | News