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Council to sell Leith Waterworld despite promise to help community run it

The coalition which run Edinburgh Council want to sell the site for £1m to soft play company A&G Property.

Leith Waterworld

Edinburgh Council has decided to sell Leith Waterworld to a soft play company despite promising to help a community group to take it over.

The centre was closed by the local authority in January last year and they planned to sell the site to help fund the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

The sale had been put on hold while community group Splashback try and put forward a bid to run the site themselves and save it from closure.

In January, a full council meeting decided to give the group until the end of the year to come up with a viable plan for Waterworld.

It was revealed last week that A&G Property has submitted a £1m bid to the council after viewing the closed facility three times.

They want to spend £1.3m installing multi-level soft play, slides, climbing areas, indoor go karts, mini sport pitches, party rooms, a café and restaurant.

Councillors are due to consider the bid at a full meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the capital coalition of Labour and SNP councillors said they have put forward a motion to accept the offer and sell the site. They said they would spend £125,000 on swimming programmes for Edinburgh’s primary pupils if Waterworld is sold.

Cllr Richard Lewis said: "This has been a very difficult decision and one that this council does not take lightly.

"Firstly I’d like to thank Splashback for the work and commitment they have demonstrated in progressing the community bid. However this coalition feels that the potential purchaser will create a high quality leisure facility that will greatly benefit the community in Leith and the wider Edinburgh area.

"In recognition of Splashback’s commitment to creating affordable and accessible swimming opportunities for young people in the community, we’re proposing to commit £125,000 towards free swimming for primary aged children in Edinburgh.

"Ultimately this option ensures that the community in Leith has an accessible leisure facility for many years to come, that swimming opportunities are available and also that the council gets best value for the taxpayers of Edinburgh."

The decision sparked anger from the Green party, who had backed Splashback's plans to reopen the centre for the community.

Cllr Chas Booth said: "This is a real kick in the teeth for the local community, who had been given hope that Edinburgh’s only leisure pool would reopen when the council made its decision in January to commit funds to do that.

"To reverse that decision just five months later is perverse, and sends a message to community groups that they cannot trust a word this council says. This was the first major test of the 'cooperative council' agenda, and the coalition has failed the test.

"To soften the blow by diverting the money which would have been invested in reopening the pool into primary age swimming instead is an attempt to hide the council’s embarrassment at this decision. It will not compensate for the massive loss of amenity, in particular for infants and disabled people, that will result from Waterworld’s permanent closure."

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