Westgate Leisure Centre improvements costs it members

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Major improvement work at Chichester’s Westgate leisure centre is taking longer than expected - and members have been lost as a result.

This was disclosed following a comment at a district council meeting by Cllr Susan Fairley, who asked why the work was taking so long - and why there had been no compensation to customers for the inconvenience caused by scaffolding, poor ventilation and water quality problems.

This had resulted in some members transferring to private leisure centres, she told the council.

In a letter to Cllr Fairley following the meeting, Cllr Nick Thomas, portfolio holder for culture and sport, said the Carbon Trust project had taken longer to complete than originally anticipated.

“Firstly, the American supplier assembling the combined heat and power engines developed cash flow problems,” he said.

“This affected their suppliers, causing a four week delay in receiving the engines in this country, which in turn had an impact on the fabrication works in the plant room.

“Secondly, the impact on the contractor’s programme caused by the assembly of the major plant in public areas, particularly where high level access was required, was underestimated by the contractor. This has slowed progress.

“Finally, there are issues relating to the existing gas supply. British Gas and Southern Gas Networks are attempting to resolve the issues for early in the New Year.”

But Cllr Thomas said the general installation works were almost completed, with plant commissioning in progress.

“Once the gas supply issues are resolved, the new boiler and engines can be commissioned. Customers will then benefit from environmental controls that will ensure facilities are heated and cooled to their expectations,” he said.

“The new UV plant has been successfully commissioned. Customers are feeding back that the pool water is much more pleasant than with the previous sterilisation system.”

Westgate Leisure had lost a number of members and non-member custom as a direct consequence of the work.

“Endeavours will be made to win back these customers via the improvements and a marketing plan,” said Cllr Thomas.

“Compensation has not been offered to members as every effort has been made to provide service continuity as opposed to a shut down. If customers have not felt that they are getting value for money, we have offered to freeze memberships at no extra cost to the individual.”

On a positive note, Westgate Leisure currently had more direct debit members than this time last year. It was also on target to deliver the £299,000 savings identified within a three year business plan.