Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Call for resignation over 46m Plymouth leisure centre

Life Centre
The Life Centre will include a 50 metre swimming pool

A political row has erupted as work starts on a new multi-million pound leisure centre in Plymouth.

On Tuesday council leader Vivienne Pengelly cut the first turf on the £46.5m centre which is expected to open at Central Park by September 2011.

Former council leader Tudor Evans called for her to resign, saying too much had been spent on the centre.

Mrs Pengelly rejected the claim, saying the centre had come in under budget and she was "delighted with it".

The project has been financed by about £18-19m from council borrowing, £2.5m from Plymouth University, £1.99m from Sport England and the rest from the sale of assets including the Pavilions leisure centre in the city.

The Life Centre will include a 50 metre swimming pool, diving pool, climbing area, sports hall, health suite, dance studio, soft play and cafe.

I am pleased the thing is being built... but they have already lost control of the budget
Tudor Evans

The existing Mayflower Leisure Centre and park pool are to be demolished to make way for it.

The ruling Labour group launched the Life Centre project in 2006 with a budget of £26.6m.

When the Conservatives took power in 2007 they re-examined the project and came up with the £46.5m expanded plan.

Labour group leader Tudor Evans told BBC News: "An opportunity would have been to build this facility so it didn't require masses of taxpayers' money.

"But of course that's not what they're doing.

"They're spending millions and millions more on building the thing."

'It's fantastic'

He said the council was now relying on cash from the sale of the Pavilions.

"I am pleased the thing is being built. It will be good for Plymouth," he said.

"But they have already lost control of the budget. Mrs Pengelly should resign."

Mrs Pengelly said: "It's come in under budget and I'm absolutely delighted with it.

"I think it's a shame that Tudor Evans has brought politics into this and done a lot of mud slinging.

"This is absolutely super for Plymouth and it's what everybody wants."

James Coulton, the council's assistant director for culture, sport and leisure, said the borrowed money would be repaid over 25 years at a fixed rate.

He said: "Funding has been agreed and risk assessed.

"It's a long-term aspiration of the city and we are very confident we are going to be able to deliver it within the resources we have."

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