The Wokingham Paper

Proposals for new Bulmershe Leisure Centre approved by planning committee

The old Bulmershe Leisure Centre ahead of its demolition in May

A multi-million-pound revamp of Bulmershe Leisure Centre was approved by a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, July 17.

Under the plans, the recently demolished site will be a six-lane swimming pool, a teaching pool with moveable floor, a gym, a four-court sports hall, two studios and a café.

Speaking in favour of the plans was the leader of Woodley Town Council, Cllr Keith Baker who said that the plans had been five years in the making.

“In the period between the abolition of the County Council, former owners of this facility, and 2014, the leisure centre was leased to the Town Council. The result was disastrous with minimal capital investment put in … causing the centre to rapidly deteriorate.”

Cllr Baker said that his “co-operative approach” between the town and borough councils “resulted in the return of the facility back to its owners”. At the time of this handover, Cllr Baker was also leader of Wokingham Borough Council, a role he had between 2014 and 2017.

“At the same time,” he added, “in 2014, both councils started working on a plan to provide a variety of options from refurbishment to a total rebuild.

“It has long been an aspiration of the town council to have a modern up-to-date leisure facility providing significant benefits to the local community.

“This new centre will … enhance the character and appearance of the area.

Cllr Norman Jorgensen, the borough council’s executive member for leisure services, gave a speech in favour of the proposals, pointing out that the Bulmershe School will continue to have access to the sports hall during term times.

“The [old facility] was built in 1974 and was getting very tired and areas were being taken out of service as condensation and decay took its toll. It was not economic to simply upgrade the centre so the plan is to demolish the current centre and build a new one in the same place.

“The aim is that the new leisure centre will be much better used than the old one which will help increase physical activity in Woodley, Earley and surrounding areas. This is expected to contribute to reducing or preventing long-term health conditions in an area of relative deprivation.”

Also making representation to the planning committee, but not present was Bulmershe and Whitegates councillor Shahid Younis. He is also a governor of Bulmershe School which is immediately next to the leisure centre.

“As a ward member I have campaigned for a number of years for the current dilapidated building to be demolished and replaced with new, much improved leisure facilities. Our Woodley and Earley residents deserve better,” he noted.

He highlighted the larger floor space area, a new café facility and the centre’s proximity to two other schools – Addington and Highwood.

Following a brief discussion by the committee, the decision was passed unanimously.

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