Controversy over planned roof for Worthing’s swimming pool

THE cost of Worthing’s controversial new swimming pool has soared to £17.9 million.

That’s £900,000 higher than the borough council’s budget for the flagship project, according to a new report.

But critics said the cost could be slashed if plans for an “iconic” copper roof were scrapped.

The council said it intended to pay for the complex by selling off land. However, with the existing Aquarena site, Grafton multi-storey car park, and a plot in Fulbeck Avenue unsold, the council would have to borrow £8.5 million to bridge the funding gap until buyers were found.

Councillors were warned interest payments would seriously drain town hall reserves at a time when spending was being drastically cut.

The report said: “These reserves are critical to help the council navigate the current financial climate.

“There is a significant risk in progressing at this time, as the key Aquarena site (valued at more than £8 million), has yet to be marketed.

“It is your finance officer’s view that the main contract should not be signed until such time as the disposal of the Aquarena site is further progressed.”

But councillors were also warned that a quick start was needed to take advantage of today’s low construction costs which meant the town would get more for its money.

The new complex will feature a 25m, six-lane competition pool, leisure pool and flume, shared diving/learner pool, outside splash pool, health and fitness suite, two multi-use studios and a café.

It was scheduled to be built in Beach House grounds, off Brighton Road, on the children’s paddling pool, just west of the existing 1960s Aquarena.

The council’s cabinet met last night (Wednesday) to decide whether to delay the scheme until more money was in the bank, or allow builders on site at the end of April. If work did start then, the scheme was expected to be finished by February 2013.

The report concluded: “The maximum total cost is £17.9 million which is higher than the £17 million budget.

“There are no further reductions that can be made without fundamentally changing the scheme’s design or specification.

“We are at the low point of the construction market and need to act now to gain the cost benefits that brings.

“Given the size of the contract and the nature of the facility there should be a £600,000 contingency provided to ensure the smooth and satisfactory progress of the project.”