Fears have been raised that plans for a replacement EPIC sports centre could be “kicked into the long grass.”
They follow a decision by Cheshire West and Chester Council to acquire land in the town centre for the new academy “as soon as sites become available”.
Meeting in Ellesmere Port, the council’s Executive earmarked £1m plus for the purchase, with a September 2012 opening date mentioned.
Labour finance spokesman and former borough leader Cllr Justin Madders (Lab, Central and Westminster), who attended the meeting, is worried the academy could be built on land which has been mentioned as being suitable for the replacement EPIC.
Consultations have shown the Hub Youth Centre site would be preferred by the public, ahead of Wellington Road, for a new centre.
“When the subject of the site for the new academy came up, I was concerned that it was earmarked on land the borough council had previously expressed an interest in for the new EPIC centre,” said Cllr Madders.
“We always knew the academy could end up there but I was hoping that the executive had contingency plans for a different site for the EPIC.
“Unfortunately, when I asked about this, I was not reassured at all by the reply.”
He continued: “All we were told was there is a review of leisure provision and they said they might use the Cheshire Oaks school site”.
“There were issues with that and it could be used for housing instead.
“It was like all the work the borough council did in identifying suitable sites had been forgotten”.
Cllr Madders added: “Frankly, I am extremely sceptical we will get a new EPIC now.
“They’ve known for a long time it needs to be replaced but seemingly haven’t moved the matter on at all.
“I am worried this ‘review’ is just an attempt to kick the whole thing into the long grass.
“We know that with the new £20m headquarters to pay for they will be looking to cut back on expenditure elsewhere.
“I hope the replacement EPIC is not a victim of this.”
He concluded: “I would ask the new council to come clean about their plans.
“What have they done since the borough council made recommendations to it about possible sites?
“When can we expect progress or is it still ‘under review”?
Cheshire West and Chester chief executive Steve Robinson wrote to outgoing borough chief Brenda Harvey in March saying he understood the concerns about the deterioriating condition of EPIC and the wish to replace it.
He said the new council was carrying out an urgent review of leisure facilities across Cheshire West and Chester and was sure: “We will produce an excellent leisure offer that our local residents will see as a major step forward”.
Consultants told the former borough council there was ‘great concern’ that Ellesmere Port would be the poor relation to Chester and a new EPIC would not be built.