A POLITICAL row has broken out over a deal which Labour claims was in place to build houses on the Skelmersdale Sports Centre site – before the decision to close it was made.
Labour Cllr Terry Aldridge called on Cllr David Sudworth to resign after an investigation the group says was undertaken by Cllr Jackie Coyle, revealing the sports centre was going to be knocked down regardless of the consultation that took place earlier this year.
In a statement, the group said that the investigation “proved the council has a longstanding agreement in place with a developer to build houses on the sports centre land, which included the “Homestart” site, subject to the normal planning procedures”.
Cllr Terry Aldridge said: “When the council began its consultation at no time was this agreement with the developer mentioned by Cllr Sudworth, and in all the paperwork provided to councillors, stakeholders and residents of Skelmersdale did they identify any form of development agreement.
‘‘This is absolutely disgraceful. We have all been misled by the council and Cllr Sudworth should resign but he won't – he however at the very least should apologise at the next full council to colleagues and residents. The decision to go out to consultation to close the centre was a cabinet decision rushed through council under the disguise of urgent business, preventing any form of in-depth scrutiny which may have revealed the agreement with the developer to the public.”
But Cllr Sudworth said the allegations were inaccurate and countered that Labour should apologise for its “misleading” claims.
He said a report went to full council on April 26, 2006 in which the situation regarding the sports centre land was set out, and reference to the land being in the Town Centre Development Agreement was made in the “Future of Skelmersdale Sports Centre” report considered by cabinet in June this year.
He said: “For Labour to say this information was not available is untrue.
‘‘The original plan was to replace the sports centre with a new facility in the town centre. It was originally envisaged this would have been open by now as part of Phase One, but this was before the last Labour government led the economy into the red.’’
Cllr Sudworth added: ‘‘At the same time, the council had a building which is in need of serious repair so WLBC consulted on its future and a decision has now been made. Labour's misleading allegations are nothing short of disgraceful.”