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Leith Waterworld thrown lifeline as Splashback given more time for bid

The centre was closed in January last year and was initially to be sold to fund the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Premises Photograph for Leith Waterworld (EH6 8HU)

Councillors have given a community group more time to finalise a business plan to run Leith Waterworld.

If a business plan is presented and approved by the end of the year, the leisure facility will reopen and the council will put £350,000 towards it.

The centre was closed by the City of Edinburgh Council in January last year and they planned to sell the site to help fund the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The closure was approved in 2005.

Splashback fought the closure of the pool before offering to run the leisure facility themselves. They submitted an initial bid in August but it was rejected by councillors in September. The group were then given time and assistance from council officials to come up with a sustainable bid.

At the full council meeting on Thursday, councillors voted to approve the improved bid despite being recommended not to by officials. However, conditions were added to ensure the group secure all the funding they need to run the centre.

They have given Splashback until the end of the year to enter and finish a feasibility phase and come up with an improved business plan.

The community group will be given £100,000 to help them through the feasibility phase and they will only be allowed to continue with reopening the pool if extra funding has been secured and their business plan is approved by an independent person.

They also agree to give them £350,000 over three years to help them reopen Leith Waterworld.

Cllr Richard Lewis said: "Do we not owe it to the people of Edinburgh to save the unique facility that is Leith Waterworld?"

Cllr Norma Hart added the business plan had shown them the potential the community bid has.

She said: "It is an incomplete business plan. Simon Sheilds from Splashback made a bold claim, he said they have given us all the information we need to make a decision on this valuable community asset. With respect, we don't think that is the case.

"We think Splashback has given us enough information to make a decision on the potential of a genuine community-led social enterprise in Leith. It will help promote the well-being of our residents. We will do all we can to support Splashback but it must be done by the end of the year."

Councillors warned that if the business plan submitted in December was not viable then it would be the end of the process and the pool would be put up for sale.

Cllr Andrew Burns said: "If the feasibility stage brings back a business plan that isn't viable then that will be it. We will stick to that. It is a big if, it is dependent on the outcome of the feasibility stage."

The conservative group voted to reject the bid, saying the council could not afford it.

Cllr Jeremy Balfour said: "We should've made a decision many years ago. Actually, we did, the decision was to close Leith Waterworld. The officers have been absolutely clear in their evidence. I have seen nothing in Splashback's deputation to persuade me to go against their recommendation."

Councillors voted 46-11 in favour of approving Splashback's bid.

Splashback put forward two options in their revised business plans. The first would see the centre reopened with its current facilities, the second would see a soft play area and café added to bring in income.

The council hoped to secure around £5.5m from the closure of Leith Waterworld. This included an estimated £1.5m from the sale of the site and £4m savings over the next 20 years.

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