WANTAGE residents have raised concerns about leisure facilities in the area if a secondary school is handed control of the local leisure centre.

There have been widespread suggestions that King Alfred’s Academy will be given the Wantage Leisure Centre once a newer facility – currently in the planning stage – is built in the town.

The school's centre site stands next to the leisure centre.

Neither the Vale of White Horse District Council or the school, run by Vale Academy Trust, confirmed whether the move would go ahead – or gave any indication of when any decision would be made.

Vale alderman and former councillor Joyce Hutchinson said she did not know ‘anything definite’, but added that the district council are ‘going about the whole business the wrong way’.

“It looks like the present leisure centre will be taken over by King Alfred’s but there will be conditions: that it will have to be in decent condition, which it is not – ten years ago it was in need of a decent refurbishment. That will cost a lot.

“I personally think it is going to cost so much money.

“There are agreements to be made. When would the facilities be open to the public? You ask and nobody can tell you.”

She continued: “My theory is that the academy are going to have some very hard conditions and that Vale are going to fight them.

“People are divided – lots of people say we should have a bigger one with new facilities that we need. I still think it is to small for the population. In ten or 20 years’ time, the population will have doubled.”

The council are aiming to build the new £19 million leisure centre in Mably Way by 2020.

Jenny Hannaby, a councillor who formerly held the leisure portfolio, added: “The school said they would like to take it but they did not want the swimming pool and the pool is very expensive to run.

“If the school take it over and had some deal with the Vale - that the Vale would staff the centre - that could work.”

She continued: “It would be good for the town to have something in the town centre but detailed conversations are needed.

“If the school is going to take over and run it, then I would want to make sure that we have enough community activities.

Ms Hannaby also added that there was still ‘a question mark’ over whether the centre would be sufficiently large enough for all the town’s people.

Julie Mabberley, Wantage and Grove Campaign Group campaign manager, echoed the concerns: “The application for the new leisure centre has been submitted but it won't be large enough to cope with the increased population.

“Discussions continue between the trust and district council about the future of the existing leisure centre, but we believe that it is unlikely that public access to any facilities will continue.

In a statement joint statement, the school and the district council said: “We will continue to work with Oxfordshire County Council and The Vale Academy Trust to determine its future following the opening of the new leisure centre in 2020. We are keen to ensure that the existing facility remains available for community use.”