A new £30 million leisure facility to replace the Orchard Leisure Centre is on the cards for Armagh, Armagh I can reveal.
Councillors are expected tonight (Monday) to approve an outline business plan for leisure provision in Armagh, which would include finding a site for the development.
A meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s leisure and community services committee will be told that the existing Orchard Leisure Centre will require significant investment if it is to remain operational.
Council must decide tonight whether or not to proceed with a business plan.
The development had originally been considered for the Mullinure area and that may well still be a favoured option.
It was in September 2014 that an Armagh Education and Leisure Masterplan was presented to councillors at a capital programme workshop in Banbridge.
It was presented as a £30 million development, which was seen as a strategic priority for Armagh City and District Council as the old council amalgamated with Banbridge and Craigavon Councils.
The Mullinure Masterplan had community facilities and infrastructure, and key to this was a major new leisure centre with ancillary outdoor facilities, all on a single site.
The proposal would have involved a partnership between the council and a number of third level schools and the Southern Regional College.
The Masterplan process had stalled temporarily due to various issues among the partners involved.
But the need for a new and improved leisure centre – which was highlighted through the consultation – remains.
In 2009, Armagh City and District Council completed the refurbishment of the Orchard Leisure Centre with a 10 year ‘shelf life’.
The current site and building is limited in terms of future development – it is curtailed by its location and limited car parking.
In fact, a condition survey has recommended that a conservative investment of around £2.5 million would be required in just three years time if it is to remain open and operational at all.
Even allowing for this investment, councillors have been told that annual and ongoing maintenance costs are growing and will continue to do so.
They have also been informed that the future of leisure provision within Armagh City and beyond needs to be considered, most specifically in the context of the future life of the Orchard Leisure Centre, but also recognising the needs identified through the comprehensive consultation exercise carried out in 2013/14 as part of the Education and Leisure Masterplan.
An outline business case is now needed.
It will assess the need for indoor and outdoor leisure provision in Armagh City, as well as identifying a suitable location for the new leisure centre.
It would also consider the building requirements and design of the centre to “service the ever-changing needs of the community”.
The business case would continue to reflect any future developments in the overall plans for the Mullinure site.
At this stage, it would cost up to £160,ooo in the next financial year to carry out the business plan – assessing the needs for leisure provision – and produce designs for the new centre.
This will be the recommendation going before council tonight.
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