Council to discuss Splash Park plan this week after doubts raised about funding

A image of what the splash pad could look like in St Neots

A image of what the splash pad could look like in St Neots - Credit: Archant

Plans to build a new splash park in St Neots have hit the buffers less than three weeks after they were announced.

St Neots Town Council is holding an extraordinary meeting on Thursday to call in its decision to grant £250,000 to St Neots Aquatic and Leisure CIO.

The money was part of £350,000 needed to build a splash pad on the old outdoor swimming pool site in Huntingdon Street.

A motion, which will then be discussed by councillors on Thursday, is worded as follows: “Cllr Thorpe proposes that this council acknowledges the financial advice given by officers regarding funding of the proposed splash park and agrees to proceed in accordance with that advice”.

The Hunts Post understands the “advice” is that the council should not have agreed the grant could come from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - contributions from developers - as this money can only be used for capital projects and not awarded to third parties.

St Neots mayor and chairman of the council, Councillor Barry Chapman, who voted against the decision to award the grant and pushed for a 40-year loan, says he is hopeful of finding a way forward.

“We need to discuss this further with St Neots Aquatic and Leisure, but we are very hopeful we can work out a way to provide this for the town,” he said.

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“This is not straight forward and we need more information before we make a final decision. This is public money and we can’t have a situation where this is a gift rather than a grant.”

Cllr Chapman has suggested that it may be possible for a modular build of the project, which would mean building the facility in stages over two or three years, but he said it had to be something which “protects the tax payer”.

At a meeting of the full town council held on February 26, eight councillors voted to grant the money to St Neots Aquatic and Leisure; five voted against and three abstained. The trustees were not willing to take the money as a loan.

Plans for a covered swimming pool were also part of the splash park option and it is unclear whether the negotiations for this will now proceed.

A spokesman for St Neots Aquatic and Leisure CIO said: “We are keen to work with the town council so that the splash park can be built as soon as practical.”