Concerns are growing that Fleetwood’s free seafront splash pad facility could become a paid for attraction after all.
The Marine Splash facility 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.
Boasting fountains, water jets, water tunnels and a paddling area, it proved hugely popular when it was opened last summer and low income families in the town were quick to make use of it.
It is set to re-open for the new season in May.
But fears that people might have to start paying for it surfaced last October after Coun Lynn Bowen, the Leisure and Culture Portfolio Holder, publicly told Fleetwood Labour councillors she could not rule out the possibility of charges in future.
Now a Wyre Council document, Schedule of Executive Decisions, shows that fees are now being considered, prompting furore in the town.
Under the section Leisure and Culture Portfolio Decisions, the panel under “decision needed” for the splash pad states: “To confirm the proposed fees and charges for 2016/17”.
Although no decision has yet been made and no exact figure has been mooted, a decision is nevertheless expected in April.
Bob Boal, of Fleetwood Community Trustwas part of the group which fought to save the old paddling pool when its future came under threat.
He said: “I think it is an absolute disgrace that the town’s seafront water feature, which has been enjoyed free of charge by families for generations, is even being considered as a money-maker for Wyre Council.
“It is the best thing that Wyre have come up with in the Five For Fleetwood scheme, and has proved really popular.
“But if Wyre starts charging it will leave a sour taste for all those families who don’t have much spare cash.
“We originally understood it would remain free of charge but now Wyre
Council have fees on their agenda.
“We fought to save the paddling pool but didn’t expect this.”
This week Coun Bowen reiterated that fees could not be ruled out.
She said: “If people want to keep these kind of facilities we will need to watch the pennies.
“The council has to be careful how we managed things in future and we cannot rule out fees.
“But I have yet to file my report and no decision has been made yet, so I can’t say any more at this stage.”
Fleetwood’s Labour councillors are opposed to any charges and first raised fears about fees last year.
Fleetwood councillor Coun Ruth Duffy, leader of the Wyre Labour group,
said: “If the splash pad was going to remain free, it
would not be in that Wyre report.
“I would like to know how much they are thinking about charging.
“The Labour group on Wyre would be saddened and angry to see one of the “Five for Fleetwood “ projects being used as a cash cow for the Council.
“And we will be making our feelings known to Coun Lynn Bowen before any decision is made.
“If charges do come in to use this facility, there will be uproar in Fleetwood.
“It will cause further angst to local residents who are still upset that
the original Five for Fleetwood Project was hijacked to build a few beach huts instead of completing the
originally proposed projects.”
A decision on fees for the Marine Splash is expected on April 14.