Three-year delay to leisure centre

No starting date has been decided for Craigavon’s £30m leisure centre, which was originally planned for completion in 2015.

As the new ABC Council struggles to get to grips with the change-over from the three former local authorities, another major survey of capital projects is taking place and could take at least another year.

This involves all capital projects within the former Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon councils.

And while former Craigavon councillors are insisting the centre earmarked for Craigavon Lakes is top of the list, the decision is delayed within the system.

The £30m centre – on the shores of the city lakes - was first mooted eight years ago, with the planned closure of Cascades in Portadown, Waves in Lurgan and Craigavon Leisure Centre.

And Councillor David Jones (UKIP) – who campaigned at the time to retain all three – still believes that one major centre for Craigavon is the wrong way forward.

“Portadown and Lurgan – the two biggest towns in ABC – will be left without vital facilities,” he said, “while smaller places like Banbridge, Armagh and Keady will have these facilities.

“If £10 million was spent on each of them, they would be a great boost to the towns. It’s still not too late to restore the hard-won leisure centres to the two main towns within the former Craigavon Borough Council area.”

But Councillor Mark Baxter, chairman of the leisure services committee, insisted that the project was a top priority.

“My party (DUP) will press hard to have it pushed to the planning stage.”

Lord Mayor Darryn Causby confirmed that all capital projects within the new super council were being carefully assessed and that Armagh and Banbridge projects were in the same category.

It is understood, though, that the plans keep changing and that further savings could be on the way.

It could be three years before the leisure centre starts taking shape.

The centre would include an eight-lane 50 metre pool, a separate learning pool and fun pool; a large multi-purpose sports hall; modern gym with health suite; squash courts; multi-use activity and meeting rooms; children’s soft play area; café and six five-a-side synthetic pitches outside.