Littleport’s £34m school and leisure scheme is saved at the last minute

Local MP Steve Barclay attended a meeting organised by the Littleport Parish Council

Local MP Steve Barclay attended a meeting organised by the Littleport Parish Council - Credit: Archant

An 11th hour deal looks set to resolve a long-standing stale-mate over Littleport’s multimillion pound schools and leisure centre scheme.

The parish council and Littleport Leisure Trust could not agree over the scheme which, if left unresolved, would see the whole scheme lost.

Prospective Tory parliamentary candidate, Steve Barclay, made a series of urgent calls last Friday (27), which he claims have finally fixed the problem.

Mr Barclay said a compromise was reached and both sides look set to accept the deal after speaking with John Hill, East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Chief Executive.

Mr Barclay said: “It was essential the situation was resolved at the weekend as the district council is set to go into purdah from Monday because of the upcoming local elections.

“That meant it would be difficult for officers to come up with a deal or to hold public meetings to get agreement.

“However, at the 11th hour I have managed to persuade key players David Ambrose-Smith of the leisure trust and Andy Wright of the parish council to agree to a compromise, which will unblock the impasse and ensure Littleport gets its £34 million investment in a new secondary school and leisure centre in time for a September 2017 opening,” said Mr Barclay.

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The solution is for East Cambridgeshire District Council to act as an independent broker between the parish council and the Trust with the district facilitating the appointment of a new management committee within the next three to four months.

The Trust will continue to manage the existing facility until the new management body is in place. The parish council will release its freehold on the land on condition the new management body reports to them as the freeholder of the existing facility and then as the leaseholder of the new leisure facility.

The deal brokered by Mr Barclay needs to be formally discussed by the legal teams but appears to have won support from leading members of both including Mr Ambrose-Smith of the Trust, and Mr Wright, Fred Brown and James Lee of the parish council.

“I would like to thank David Ambrose-Smith and Andy Wright for both putting the needs of Littleport before what they both wanted to happen for their respective organisations.

“The most important thing is that Littleport secures this much-needed £34 million investment,” Mr Barclay said.

Cllr Wright said: “I am personally fully supportive of the solution proposed and thank Steve Barclay for his input. Hopefully we can move forward and concentrate on the detail of the new school and leisure centre to achieve the best we can for the village.”

Mr Ambrose-Smith said: “The Sports Trust were already putting a new management structure and operations system into place. We had also informally started negotiating with Steve Barclay because we had realised that a great deal of compromise would be needed to ensure the progress of the whole project.

“Right from the start we had always proclaimed that nothing should be allowed to be a ‘deal breaker’. This is such an important project to the future well-being of the people of Littleport and we are heart and soul behind anything to make it a success. We are grateful for the intervention of our MP.”

Cllr James Palmer, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Littleport is one of our key market towns so it is vitally important it has the necessary infrastructure to allow it to grow and prosper.”

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