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Now it's all to play for

PUBLISHED: 13:28 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:45 08 July 2010

There was fresh hope of improved sports and leisure facilities in Swaffham and Attleborough after Breckland Council confirmed that both towns were not the subject of a restrictive private finance initiative (PFI) clause governing future development.

There was fresh hope of improved sports and leisure facilities in Swaffham and Attleborough after Breckland Council confirmed that both towns were not the subject of a restrictive private finance initiative (PFI) clause governing future development.

But there appears to be little light at the end of the tunnel for Watton because the town is within a 10-mile radius of existing facilities at Thetford and Dereham, created with the 32-year £66m PFI deal between the council and Breckland Leisure Ltd (Parkwood).

Following a review of the council's PFI contract, Breckland Council chief executive Trevor Holden said that the authority will be undertaking a needs analysis of sports provision in Swaffham and Attleborugh.

“I don't want to raise expectations beyond what is possible both in terms of funding new facilities and what is viable in the longer term,” he said. “Any new sports provision will need to satisfy Sport England criteria if it is to secure funding from them.

“However, this is a fantastic opportunity for us to work together to understand what is required and how this can be delivered. I urge residents to come along to the first consultation meeting on Thursday to help us plan for the future.”

A Breckland Council spokesman yesterday said there had been no changes to the PFI agreement and the stipulation that the authority cannot promote a competing facility within a 10-mile radius of Thetford or Dereham, without permission from Parkwood.

“Both Attleborough and Swaffham fall outside the radius - Watton is still within a 10-mile radius of Dereham,” she said. “Any development of new facilities in Watton would need to be assessed on the basis of proven need and the council would also have to work sensitively with local communities and in co-ordination with Parkwood Leisure.

“The PFI contract has brought huge benefits to Breckland with a massive £66m investment.”

Richard Bishop, Swaffham Town Council clerk, said: “The town council will welcome this as a major step forward. We seem to meet all the criteria in terms of trying to meet the needs of people in the town but we always seem to come up against a brick wall.”

Keith Gilbert, mayor of Watton and an independent district councillor, said he had been “very unhappy” about the PFI contract from day one. “Everytime the people of Watton are asked what they would like a swimming pool is top of the list. Breckland is tied into the PFI for 30 years and when I asked what will Watton get out of it I was told nothing.

“It is very interesting to hear that Breckland is looking to provide some facilities in Attleborough and Swaffham. If they are, I expect them to come to Watton and see what facilities they can provide here,” he stressed.

The consultation process will start on Thursday with a meeting at 7.30pm in Attleborough High School's main hall. At the moment there is no meeting planned for Swaffham, but it will take place soon.

ends

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