Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to meet urgently to discuss ongoing problems at Craigavon’s South Lake Leisure Centre.
The matter was raised by DUP councillor, Margaret Tinsley, who called for a forum to be established to discuss the matter at Council’s monthly meeting on Thursday, July 29.
Addressing the chamber, Cllr Tinsley noted she had been contacted on six separate occasions on Thursday alone regarding complaints about the £37 million leisure complex that opened last November.
“Due to the fact we have an absence of the leisure services committee over the summer, could I request that we have a forum, as we did previously, to discuss the South Lake Leisure Centre,” said the Craigavon councillor.
“I have been speaking to a number of other councillors and I know I am not the only one that is receiving a barrage of issues and complaints. I think we need to have a forum to discuss those.
“We need to have a good clear, cross party opportunity to bring forward all the issues rather than coming in from all angles because today alone I have received six complaints about different issues and I know I am not the only councillor receiving these. We need this forum as soon as possible.”
Her party’s group leader, Councillor Mark Baxter seconded the proposal calling for a round table discussion to find solutions to the problems end users are experiencing.
“I think it needs to be organised as a matter of urgency there seems to be a few issues and there probably are reasonable explanations but we need to thrash those out,” he said.
Noting “people are always quick to lift the phone to complain”, Councillor Catherine Nelson said the centre was a “credit to staff” and proposed Council go one step further than what has been proposed and organise a working group that meets regularly to discuss the ongoing problems.
“I would go a step further than what has been suggested so far and look for a working group that deals with the leisure centre to be established,” said the Sinn Fein councillor.
“In my mind, the board was stood down just a wee bit too early and I think a working group would be helpful, it would not be a decision making body but would streamline the handling of complaints.
“I am sure the people that are contacting me are also contacting Councillor Tinsley then we are phoning officers separately, which is a waste of their time as they have to explain the same thing over and over.
“I would propose that until the centre is settled, we look at a working group for local councillors.
“This could help stop some of the information circulating online that is not accurate and is not a fair reflection on the centre.”
SDLP councillor, Thomas Larkham seconded this proposal and Cllr Baxter said he would be happy with it, provided it was open to all councillors and not just local representatives.
With members seemingly reaching an agreement, Council’s Chief Executive, Roger Wilson asked if he could take the matter away and deal with the logistics of the situation.
“If members are happy, I understand there is an urgency around this, I could try to get a working group set up and address some of the complications as to which members could attend,” he said.
“We do have an arrangement in place as to how many members from each party can attend so if members would be happy I can take this away, very quickly, and come back with something that will be talked through at a party leaders meeting to address those issues.
“One of the things we are trying to do is reduce the number of working groups rather than increase them and we have just stood this working group down but I appreciate there is a need for a forum based on what members are saying.
“If you are happy I will do something quickly and in discussion with party leaders and the Chair of the leisure committee I will come back with something that can accommodate what you need.”