New leisure centre at Seven Brethren approved by council planning committee this morning (Wednesday)

Plans for a new leisure centre in Barnstaple have been approved by North Devon Council (NDC).

The council’s planning committee unanimously approved an outline application for an extension to Tarka Tennis Centre today (Wednesday).

The plans include a new 25metre swimming pool and learner pool, sports hall and associated facilities and a full size 3G football pitch.

Once a contractor to design, build, run and maintain the new facilities is selected, it is hoped construction work will begin in early 2019 for opening in May 2020, coinciding with the closure of the current leisure centre in Seven Brethren.

While the councillors agreed ‘in principal’ with the outline application, concerns were raised about which sports would be catered for at the new facility.

Councillor Joe Tucker said: “My main concern is, is this building big enough to accommodate all sports we’ve got at the moment?

“It fits in reasonably well there, but it’s no good replacing it with something smaller and less efficient.

“We want to replace it with some that will last many, many years.

“It seems strange we are sending people out of Barnstaple to Torridge for squash and indoor bowls.”

Sport England has identified Kingsley Indoor Bowling Club in Westward Ho! as an adequate provision for indoor bowls, while development at Atlantic Racquet Centre and courts at Woolacombe would suitably service the demand for squash.

Addressing those concerns, contracts delivery manager Mark Kentell said the facilities, which include exercise studios and a fitness gym, were approved in consultation with Sport England.

He added: “We’ve done this pretty scientifically and in the way Sport England recommends.

“They are very happy with what we have done and what we have come up with and they have supported the plans with a £1.5million contribution.”