A looming budget crisis could force the town’s seafront free splash pad facility to become a paid for attraction.
The Marine Splash facility, which proved hugely popular when it was opened over the summer, is one of five schemes included in Wyre Council’s £1.5m Five For Fleetwood scheme and has effectively replaced the town’s old paddling pool.
I cannot guarantee that it will remain free
Campaigners from Fleetwood Community Trust, who battled to save the paddling pool and were involved in consultations over the splash pad, claim they were told by Wyre officials that the water play area would remain a free facility.
But after being quizzed by Labour councillors at a full council meeting at Wyre last week Coun Lynn Bowen, the Leisure and Culture Portfolio Holder, said she could not rule out the possibility of charges in future.
This week Coun Bowen reiterated her comments when she said: “I cannot guarantee that it will remain free.
“We cannot say which assets will or not be sold, either, because we don’t know what the financial situation will be.
“We are all having to tighten our belts at this time.”
When told there were concerns about possessible fees in Fleetwood, Coun Bowen added: “I am surprised people are getting so worried because we have not said people will definitely have to pay.”
But in Fleetwood there is anger that the fees may even be considered when the splash pad, which features a paddling area and water shoots, re-opens for the season next year.
Norah Stuchfield, chairman of Fleetwood Community Trust, said: “The splash pad is a brilliant thing for Fleetwood and we’re glad we’ve got it, but we’re really not happy that Wyre Council is considering any kind of fee for it.
“There are few enough free facilities around and if they started to charge for this one, many families may not be able to afford it - especially if they have several children.
“Fleetwood is a deprived area and if they started expecting people to pay, it would just not be on.
“At a meeting with Wyre Council officials last year we asked if there would be charges and we were told there wouldn’t be, so it would be very disappointing if charges are brought in.”
Tom Norton, vice chairman of Fleetwood Community Trust, added: “The fact that a wall has left around the spalsh pad would seem to make a turnstyle a real possibility. We are definitely worried about this.”
Fleetwood Labour councillor, Coun Emma Anderton, who was at last week’s full council session, commented: “I understand that councils are under a lot of financial pressure under the current financial climate, but it would be a great shame if the splash pad was taken out of the reach of some of the families in Fleetwood.”
The issue is an emotive one in Fleetwood.
There was fury in the town when Wyre decided to stop filling the old paddling pool with water in 2012 because it was costing the authority £12,000 a year.
As a result of the local campaign, the pool was kept open before the splash pad eventually succeeded it.