CONTROVERSIAL plans for a unisex changing facilities at Stratford Leisure Centre will go ahead as part of its £5 million revamp.
The move comes despite last-minute objections from centre-users who urged council chiefs to change their mind.
Stratford District Council – which owns the leisure centre – first held a public consultation back in December asking for feedback on improvements to the Bridgefoot centre.
And although almost nine out of ten respondents were happy with the plans, more than half expressed concerns over the proposed unisex changing area, which led the council to extend its consultation period.
Currently, the leisure centre is made up of a family changing facility, as well as male and female changing rooms.
But under new plans, although the family facility would remain, the male and female changing rooms would be removed in favour of a unisex changing area with individual cubicles.
And in response to the feedback, the council agreed to make group changing rooms available without facilities for single sex changing outside of school hours.
Leisure centre-users Neville Shannon and Coun Justin Kerridge spoke out against the plans at this week’s Cabinet meeting – but the council still gave them the green light.
Defending the decision, council spokeswoman Lynda Organ said: “Concerns have been raised about the proposed changing village, however it offers a number of advantages and ensures the facilities are available to all users with no-one being disadvantaged.
“The updated proposal will create a serviceable facility and the changing village is an integral part of the revised design, which will allow safe, private changing and showering facilities for all customers.”
She argued unisex changing would make it easier for both male and female staff to clean the facility and that a similar arrangement at Shipston Leisure Centre had proved popular since it was established nine years ago.
Coun Organ added: “The new changing village and ongoing controversy should not detract from the fact the majority of people are in favour of the overall scheme.
“The concept design has been refined and the work carried out to date shows the project is feasible meaning a much-improved facility can be delivered for the budget assigned.”
A contractor is now being sought before the council begins the revamp, which will include the construction of a £289,000 climbing wall.
It is anticipated the pool will be closed for around 18 weeks later this year, however the centre itself is expected to remain open while refurbishment is carried out in phases.