Deal to reopen Oasis leisure centre gets green light

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Members of the ruling Labour cabinet voted unanimously to endorse the proposal put by the member for finance Councillor Kevin Small, despite pleas from one councillor and a member of the public to delay for “six or seven months”.

The arrangement, which still needs to be passed by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Monday as the final step, will see Seven Capital bring forward a plan to refurbish the centre, and re-open it, with an aim to do so in 2026.

Once the building is ready, and an operator appointed to run the centre, Seven Capital will be able to buy the site, which it is leasing from the council, for at least £6m.

The deal also finally acknowledged the planned snow centre on the North Star site across the road will not go ahead, and Seven Capital will be able to build homes there.

But the re-opened Oasis will be largely based on the pool and will not feature the sports hall/music venue which played a part in making it so famous.

Before members discussed Cllr Small’s proposals, he fielded numerous questions.

Neil Robinson, of the Save Oasis Swindon campaign, asked whether the council would try and persuade Seven Capital to incorporate a new sports hall and music venue into its new plans.

He said: “We have had many messages from people who worked at the centre saying the sports hall was always booked up it was booked for sports, but also concerts and other events.

“Is this definitely the best deal?”

Cllr Small said he was sorry himself that a new Oasis would not feature more facilities aside from the pool and a few others.

He said: “Seven Capital has been in contact with potential operators. The two who are interested in running the centre haven’t asked for, and don’t want, the sports hall.

“The deal has to be with Seven Capital as the company has a 99-year lease on the site from 2012.

“I think this is the best deal we are going to get. The centre will be opened and the pool operational at no cost to the public.”

Tristan Strange, later echoed by Conservative councillor Daniel Admas, asked for the council to delay moving on with the agreement.

Mr Strange said: “I don’t understand it, I don’t know how it will work. I think many people feel like that.

“Can you delay just for some months so we can look at it properly, and so we can feed in to the proposal so it’s the best for the people of Swindon?”

Others expressed concern at the way Seven Capital has taken care of the site since it was shut in November 2020, at the start of the autumn lockdown that year.

Leader of the council Councillor Jim Robbins said: “We really get it, that people want the sports hall and the dry side. But operators don’t want it, and our independent advisors say it makes it harder to be viable.”

He said of Seven Capital: “It’s very much a situation this administration has inherited, and I know many people, myself included, weren’t that happy with the way the company has looked after the place.

“But the agreement has to be with Seven Capital because of the long lease, and we have to work with the company. It’s a commercial company, and it will be looking to make a profit, it is our job to make sure it does what is best for the council and Swindon.”

The Overview & Scrutiny Committee will discuss the proposal starting at 6pm on Monday, November 20 at the Civic offices in Euclid Street.


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