A NEW leisure centre will not be built between Wantage and Grove, as a council could not raise the £18.8 million budget needed.

Vale of White Horse District Council has formally agreed that all work on the proposed new leisure centre, which was set to be built next to the health centre on Mably Way, will now come to an end.

The council said it is still unable to raise the £18.8 million the centre was expected to cost.

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The project, which had been dubbed the Wessex Centre, has been paused since September 2018 while the council waited on confirmation from the government on its intentions for future council funding.

Following last year's May elections, there was uncertainty about whether the new Lib Dem administration would carry on with the plans, which were put in place by their Conservative predecessors.

Cash for the leisure centre was then removed from the council’s budget in February 2019.

It is now clear to the council it is not going to be possible to raise the necessary funding, which is why the project has now been formally terminated.

Andy Crawford, the Vale's Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We set our budget in February to stabilise the council’s long-term finances following years of cuts in government funding and a continued lack of clarity from the government on future funding.

"As a council whose finances are heavily reliant on an uncertain funding steam, it is almost impossible for us to invest in large infrastructure projects at this time.”

The council had found £5.9 million of funding for the centre which could have been raised from developers building houses in the Vale, £1.7 million of which has already been received.

Most of the remaining costs were due to be financed from the New Homes Bonus grant funding from the government, but the future of this funding is uncertain after the government announced in 2018 it wanted to replace the scheme.

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Details of how the government believes any replacement might work or how much money it might generate for areas receiving high numbers of new houses like the Vale are yet to materialise.

Councillors at the Vale are planning to introduce a new Active Communities Strategy, which will find ways of providing leisure activities in both Grove and Wantage and across the district.

It will also include an assessment of what facilities can be provided making full use of the funding that has already been or is due to be raised from housing developers.

Helen Pighills, cabinet member for community services at the Vale said: “By focussing on local and community-based leisure delivery we are aiming to help our residents keep their carbon emissions down and making the services we provide more accessible.

"It’s better to walk or cycle to locally provided activities.”