Concerns raised over increasing cost of Eastwood Leisure Centre
Ambitious plans for a new Eastwood leisure centre and theatre have been backed by councillors despite concerns over increasing costs.
East Renfrewshire Council has agreed staff can continue developing the proposals for Eastwood Park, which could cost £55m.
Previously, £26m was allocated to the scheme but council bosses say it was “made clear” at the time this would be “refined” later.
Project managers at the council have assessed the current plans – which include a library, theatre, 50m pool, gymnastics zone, café, kitchen and bar – and estimate basic construction costs of £47.5m.
The overall costs could reach £55m.
Councillor Gordon Wallace said the original £26m had “seemed an eye-watering amount” and added: “Here we are now talking about something approaching £50m.”
He was concerned about an “innovative vision for a spectator zone, which can be used flexibly as an urban beach”, saying: “What on earth is this proposal that we’ve got here?
“This our residents’ money, we are going to have to fund this. I have concerns that we are going to be paying for other people’s visions. Some of this is a little worrying.
“Overall, I’m greatly in favour that we can produce something here that is going to have many, many years of benefit.”
A council officer said the project was “at the very, very early stages of design” and he expected the “urban beach” to be a viewing area for the pool for parents.
Detailed plans are expected to be submitted by the council in May, with the aim of starting on site later this year. The construction period is expected to last two years.
An online consultation event is being planned for later this month.
Councillor Paul O’Kane said the project was “ambitious and aspirational”.
He said designers would do “blue sky thinking” and councillors would “need to be aware of what’s a benefit to the trust, what’s a benefit to the community and what’s needed locally”.
And council leader Tony Buchanan said: “This isn’t just about a replacement leisure centre and theatre, this is about building something which will take into account the circumstances that we’ve faced over the last year, that allows a greater amount of space to be utilised.
“It provides a number of services that weren’t otherwise included, it enhances the facility significantly.
“It could be a significant tourist attraction. We are looking at something that will benefit the area and our residents for a significant period.”
Councillor Jim Swift said being “aspirational with other people’s money is not always a good thing”.
He added: “We’re going to spend a heck of a lot of money, one thing I would be keen to be sure about is that we stay within budget.
“I don’t think we’ve considered in the context of trying to find cuts that we can swallow as a council, that this is going to take money out the revenue budget and it’s going to take millions more out the revenue budget when we’ve had a look at the five-year forecast, and it makes for grim reading.
“We’re not getting any more money out the Scottish Government.”
He questioned whether a 50m pool was needed: “It’s Olympic in ambition but is the money there to pay for it when we can’t find the cuts already to match our budget.”