Cambridgeshire County Council delay discussion on land lease to enable ambitious sports hall plans for Waterlees in Wisbech to go ahead
Hopes of a £2million sports hall and community cafe in a deprived area of Wisbech have met with another delay despite, promises of action by Cambridgeshire County Council.
Chris Stevens, of the Oasis Centre, has been pushing to lease an area of land that runs to the front and side of the facility in St Michael's Avenue, for the past nine years.
Last week she met with representatives of the county council, which owns the land, which has been labelled as being in a high-risk flood zone by the Environment Agency, making it unuseable for residential development, to discuss a potential 90 year lease.
She said: "The meeting was very positive and I was left feeling really enthusiastic that we would finally be making progress on obtaining the lease. The land cannot be built on for residential, only for commercial so it is unlikely the council would build on it.
"We want to lease it long term so we can start applying for grants to build the sports hall and community cafe, which would be a perfect use for the land, now I have been told the county council will not be discussing the issue until at least January.
"It is very hard not to get despondent about it as that is another three or four months of waiting. We did a survey nine years ago to ask what the Waterlees community wanted and they said a sports hall. We have recently done another survey to make sure it is still wanted, and of course it is.
"This is one of the most deprived areas in the county, people find it hard to get to the Hudson Centre for sports activities. Having this sort of facility on the doorstep would be a fantastic asset for the area.
"We want it to offer all kinds of sporting activities, which we can't currently offer at the Oasis centre because our ceiling is too low. We do have Active Fenland come in on Tuesdays to do yoga and family fitness, but that is quite limited. The new building will also have a community cafe, run by the community for the community.
"We want to work with as many partners as possible including the NHS to make sure we offer a facility suitable for everybody to use. Clarion have helped us update our business plan, which is fantastic, but we can't make any progress until we are given the lease.
"At the meeting last week the council's representatives said they weren't aware of any similar cases, until I pointed out what happened with Estover Playing Field in March.
"There, not only did the council grant a lease, but also gave £100,000, we're not asking for money, we just want the lease so we can start putting funding bids together and finally get this project moving. The scheme scores really high on the social value, which means we have a strong chance of success.
"We are wanting to go really big and provide something that is multi-purpose and will also include a youth club, we just need the county council to say yes."
County council leader Steve Count has been asked for a comment.