Wakefield Market Hall could close and swim pools in Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley under threat

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SWIMMING pools in Castleford, Pontefract, and Knottingley could be axed and Wakefield’s new market hall could close and be replaced with a cinema as the local authority seeks to slash costs.

Council chiefs are to consider closing pools at Castleford and Pontefract and build a new lesiure centre in the area.

And proposals are being considered to close the pool but upgrading the health and fitness section at Knottingley Sports Centre.

A report into the district-wide leisure review will be discussed by the council’s Cabinet next Tuesday.

The report states that swimming facilities in the Five Towns need £1.3m of repairs and that the council cannot maintain its current leisure provision.

Wakefield Council currently runs two leisure centres in Wakefield at Sun Lane and Thornes Park.

It runs five others in Normanton, Featherstone, Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley on a budget of £2.9m.

Following the closure of Minsthorpe Pool in 2013, the council has announced plans to build a new pool in the south east of Wakefield district.

Coun David Dagger, cabinet member for culture, sport and libraries said: “The review has shown that leisure facilities in the Five Towns are in urgent need of repair.

“We have to consider how we deal with this so that we can meet the needs of this part of the district – now and for the future.

“However, it is equally important that we look at how we can deliver this in light of the significant financial challenges we now face. We are striving to do our best for the people of the whole district but the financial climate will make this very difficult.

“We are asking the scrutiny committee to look into the implications of the review and report back to Cabinet, before any decision is made.”

Anda report to next week’s meeting of Wakefield Council’s Cabinet reveals an approach has been made to the council by Sovereign Land (Management) Ltd, the owners of the successful Trinity Walk shopping centre, to redevelop the site currently occupied by Wakefield’s Market Hall.

The proposal would see the closure of the market hall and the building of a new multi-screen cinema and a small number of restaurant and café units on the site.

Council chiefs say market hall traders would be relocated within the city centre and the outdoor market would also go to a new site.

The report recommends aup to £100,000 is set aside to help market traders who want the opportunity to re-locate to other premises.

The building of the Market Hall, which opened in 2008, was funded by the original developers of Trinity Walk.

The report states that it was part of a finance and land deal for which the council received a capital receipt.

A council spokeswoman said: “Despite significant efforts and initiatives to encourage support for the market hall it has struggled.

“Wakefield’s Market Hall traders have been heavily subsidised by the council since 2008, a situation that the report highlights is neither equitable nor acceptable moving forward.

“Footfall figures show that Wakefield market attracts fewer shoppers than the indoor markets in Pontefract and Castleford. The report says that surveys nationally show that a third of all markets have seen a continuing decrease in shoppers, with indoor markets more pronounced than outdoor markets.

Coun Denise Jeffery, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic growth said: “We have to accept that the market hall has not worked as well as we would have liked. But we now have an exciting opportunity to inject something new into our city centre, which we believe will boost the night-time as well as the daytime economy, bringing more jobs and investment into the district.

“This also gives us the chance to deliver our market offer in a different way and we want to work with traders to help relocate their businesses to other premises should they so wish. The proposed relocation of the outdoor market to the precinct will enhance it, make sure it is sustainable and create a vibrant link between the Ridings and Trinity Walk.”

The report, which will be discussed by cabinet on February 11, recommends approval of the proposal and authorisation of the sale of the site for the development to Sovereign Land (Management) Ltd.