'We need a pool and we need it now' was the clear message at a meeting last night to try and find a way forward following the closure of Falmouth's one and only leisure centre.

Last night (May 11) around 150 local people and councillors from Falmouth, Penryn, Mylor, Wendron and surrounding areas came together at the Princess Pavilion to discuss the future of swimming, leisure and sports provision for the towns.

Organised by community interest company Pendennis Leisure, presentations were given about the benefits of swimming and how important it was to the local community, what the situation was now, what the future might hold and what the people of Falmouth would want from any new leisure facility.

Cornwall Council has given Falmouth Town Council the option of taking over the leisure centre which would be run by Pendennis Leisure, however it was pointed out that there were a number of pitfalls with this option.

Matthew Thomson from Pendennis Leisure at the meeting

Matthew Thomson from Pendennis Leisure at the meeting

Matthew Thomson from Pendennis Leisure said that over one million pounds would be needed to run the leisure centre over five years if they successfully took it over and reopened it.

He said it was currently costing Cornwall Council £100,000 a year to mothball the site but would cost £200,000 a year to keep it open.

He said Cornwall Council opened negotiations with the town council to either devolve the whole site, car park and building, to Falmouth Town Council to do what they want with it or a kind of hybrid where the town council has some of the proceeds if the site is sold.

But Mr Thomson told the meeting the important thing to focus on was what was the replacement service was going to be.

"I am really focussed and the team here are focussed on what is the shortest and quickest route to getting Ships and Castles back open," he said.

"In my view it is about a partnership between Falmouth Town Council, the surrounding parishes and Penryn and Pendennis Leisure coming together to say 'Yes we can'. Now that sounds like a big complex agreement so let's just keep it simple that Falmouth Town Council take it on from Cornwall Council."

But town councillor Jude Robinson struck a note of caution saying they were not really talking about the elephant in the room which was the million pounds needed to run it over the next five years. "I don't think you will get an argument from anyone at Falmouth Town Council that we need a pool and we need it now but we haven't got a million pounds," she said.

"As you know we are negotiating with Cornwall Council but we have this total dilemma of them saying if you sell off the old building you'll have a bit of money to put into a new pool and actually that is a real profit. If we take over the building we are suddenly responsible for business rates, utility bills, staff costs and all the rest of it. We can't just open our cheque book for the people of Falmouth and start emptying their wallets to pay.

"No other community in Cornwall has to pay again for their own swimming pool that would be really unfair. So from our point of view as Falmouth town councillors we are 100% behind whatever you can do to enable a new pool that doesn't involve us coming to Falmouth for money again."

Town clerk Mark Williams said they needed pause and time to explore this preferred option. "As to what happens to the future of the site needs to be paused to give the community time to look at it," he said.

Around 150 people gathered in the Princess Pavilion

Around 150 people gathered in the Princess Pavilion

Mr Thomson said there was currently a review underway looking at getting Falmouth and Penryn reclassified as Tier 1 by Cornwall Council as it was currently in Tier 2 which meant it did not have to be provided with a swimming pool. He said it was supported by MP Cherilyn Macrory and he urged people to write to her about it.

"There are 47,000 people registered at GP's in Falmouth," he said. "We are the biggest settlement in Cornwall. If we're not in Tier 1, I don't know who is."

He said with the best will in the world, it would probably take at least ten years to get a new build for a pool set up. He said it meant a whole generation would then have lost the opportunity to swim.


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He said he had met with various fundraisers who were prepared to put money into the scheme to take over the site and next week he was meeting with people running the Government's fund community ownership scheme which was opening to bids next week. "They can count the asset as match funding to come in and put the other money in, so that is one of my main targets and I am talking to other people about funding," he said

"We have just got be realistic and positive. Moaning, whinging and regretting is not going to get us anywhere. Falmouth Town Council are a small team and small council that's bitten off quite a lot, including Princess Pavilion which is beautiful and it's working. We can't just wait for the council to do this for us, we have to come together as a community. Forty seven thousand people need to work together to do this."

He said the final course of action tonight was to stay informed, keep looking at all the relevant websites and talking about it in the community.

"That's all, just make sure other people care about it," he said.