Cash lifeline saves sinking Waterworld

A CITY leisure complex has been saved from the axe after council leaders confirmed a financial rescue package.

The 14 million Leith Waterworld was earmarked for closure later this year because it was costing council taxpayers around 1500 every day just to stay open.

But after pressure from politicians, councillors and local residents, city leaders have now demanded the family swimming centre is kept afloat on a part-time basis for the next three years with a 300,000 grant.

The move was confirmed in a letter received this week by Edinburgh MP Mark Lazarowicz, who has been campaigning alongside MSP Malcolm Chisholm to keep the leisure complex open.

But the council’s Tory finance spokesman, Jim Gilchrist, today branded the funding a "waste of money" and said Waterworld should be closed immediately.

The centre, which attracts around 120,000 visitors a year, has been beset by problems since it opened 13 years ago as one of the city’s flagship leisure complexes. Due to falling levels of customers, it now only opens three days a week.

And it is only three years since 270,000 was spent refurbishing the swim centre, which is built on the site of the old Leith Central Station.

Mr Lazarowicz, who recently handed city chiefs a petition against the closure, welcomed the latest cash boost.

"I am glad that Edinburgh Leisure and the city council have listened to the voices of hundreds of Leithers and other local residents," he said.

"Leith Waterworld has been a popular local facility which has been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of local people for two decades. At a time when the population of the area is growing rapidly, it would have been criminal if Leith Waterworld had closed."

Margaret Moffet, a spokeswoman for Leith Links Community Council, added: "This is a very welcome announcement, which will benefit the community greatly."

Edinburgh Leisure, the firm which gets an annual council grant of 7.5 million to run the city’s swimming, sports and leisure centres, voted last year to swing the axe because of Waterworld’s high running costs. However, the final decision on its future was taken by the council, which still owns all the facilities.

The 300,000 extra funding was earmarked by city councillors at this month’s budget meeting, and Edinburgh Leisure expects to get the cash in the next few weeks.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s sport, culture and leisure chief, said today:

"It’s a good outcome for the city and we’re pleased to have worked out a solution for the current situation."

A spokesman for Edinburgh Leisure added: "We are delighted that the outcome of discussions with the council has a been a positive one."

Waterworld fell into financial difficulty because there were not enough visitors to pay for the costs of staffing the facility, which features flumes, a wave machine, a spa pool and lagoons.

The opening hours were slashed back to just three days a week when it reopened in 2002 after a major overhaul.

In 1997, it was also threatened with complete closure because of council budget cuts, but extra cash was found to bail it out.

Councillor Gilchrist today said there was "no salvation" for the complex, and accused city chiefs of draining resources.

"Leith Waterworld has been a complete disaster from start to finish and no more money should be wasted on it," he said.