A council’s ambition to deliver improvements to the leisure offering in County Durham has been questioned. 

Labour councillors have warned that Durham County Council’s Leisure Transformation Programe has “disappeared off the face of the earth” as residents continue to wait for answers. 

People in Chester-le-Street were first consulted on plans to transform leisure facilities at the Riverside Leisure Complex and Roseberry Playing Fields, in Pelton, in November 2022. It then re-consulted in January 2023 following changes to its proposals. Yet, residents say they have not heard from the council since. 

The issue was raised again at County Hall during a Corporate Overview and Scrutiny meeting last week amid criticism of the current leisure offering in County Durham. 

Committee chair and deputy leader of County Durham Labour, Councillor Rob Crute said: “What concerns me is that the leisure transformation programme has disappeared off the face of the earth. We were promised it was going to come before the relevant committee back in October, November, December, and then January. We expected it to come after the budget. 

“There’s no mention of the Leisure Transformation Programme, and we need to do something about it. We need to get to the bottom of it because it’s not working properly.”

Proposed improvements to the Riverside include a double 3G artificial grass pitch, an improved athletics track, and a new multi-use court. At Roseberry, the council said it was “keen to understand how to make best use of the Roseberry playing fields facilities”.

But previous plans to build new leisure centres in Chester-le-Street, on the site of the former Civic Centre, and in Seaham are now unlikely due to funding pressures. 

For Cllr Kevin Shaw, of Dawdon ward, the scaled-back plans are a blow for people in Seaham. He said: “We’re asking people to go to Sunderland and use their leisure facilities because we cancelled them in Durham. Kids in my community have been waiting for a swimming pool for two generations. It was on the cusp of being delivered and now it’s gone.”

And Pelton councillor Alison Batey called on the council to update residents with its plans. 

The Labour member said: “We need to remember that members of the public were consulted on this in November and December 2022. This is embarrassing, not only for the people in this room but also that we haven’t been able to tell the public what is going on from a scrutiny point of view. It’s extremely concerning that we have got a delay that’s taken so long. The reality is we don’t even know what’s in it.”

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Durham County Council said it remains committed to delivering the Leisure Transformation Programme despite the delays and pointed to the work it has already done around the region. 

“Through the programme we have already delivered transformations to Abbey, Spennymoor and Peterlee Leisure Centres,” a spokeswoman added.

“The new facilities across these centres, which include a new children’s indoor play area and a bowling alley, have been well-received. The transformed centres feature Move hubs and a wider activity programme designed to get people of any fitness level on their feet and moving.

“We continue to progress with the transformation of the county’s leisure centres, with planning approval recently granted for Bishop Auckland. For each stage of the programme, we have been providing updates to members, customers, and the wider public. We will continue to ensure people are informed of next phases as the programme continues to progress.”