Down Leisure Centre pool could remain

Down Leisure Centre pool could remain

2 November 2011

THE existing swimming pool at the Down Leisure Centre could be retained as part of a major redevelopment of the Lower Market Street complex, it has emerged.

Down Council is keen to provide new leisure facilities in Downpatrick following the failed bid to develop a velodrome at the Belfast Road.

A number of potential sites for a new leisure centre have been examined, including the local authority's current Strangford Road headquarters which becomes vacant next spring when staff relocate to new accommodation at the Downshire Hospital site.

But council officials have indicated this week that redeveloping the existing leisure centre site is the most likely option.

Land at the front of the Lower Market Street complex has emerged as the preferred site for a new-build project, with the existing swimming pool retained and the area around it significantly upgraded.

Council chief executive, Mr. John Dumigan, said an in-depth analysis of the condition of the existing swimming pool is currently underway, with the work being carried out in tandem with ground condition surveys in the area.

"If the pool is deemed to be in good condition, it could be retained in a new-build scheme which would initially concentrate on the area of land in front of the existing leisure centre," he explained.

Elsewhere across the district, council officials are progressing with plans for proposed new leisure provision in Newcastle, Ballynahinch and Saintfield.

In Newcastle, architects have been asked to design a new leisure facility which will have little impact on Donard Park which is the preferred development site. It is understood the proposed new centre would not impact on three existing sports pitches and would include provision for a new bowling green and parking.

Architects have produced a concept drawing of what the new centre in Newcastle could look like. It is split over three levels and features a pool area, gym, sports hall, soft play area, cafe, staff facilities and commercial units.

In Ballynahinch, council officials are understood to be looking at several potential sites for new a leisure centre, while in Saintfield, The Demesne playing fields are being considered as a potential base for the town's promised new leisure centre.

The site of the existing shale hockey pitch is viewed as a front runner for a new-build scheme and could result in the provision of a new synthetic pitch, alongside other sports pitches.

Mr. Dumigan said acquiring land in Saintfield for new leisure provision has proved difficult, explaining the fact the council owns the shale hockey pitch at The Demesne provides it with an opportunity to redevelop this area.

"We could conceivably build on the hockey pitch and it's an option which we are considering at the moment," he added.