OPINION is split down the middle over the justification for spending £16m on a new leisure facility in South Tyneside, according to a straw poll of the borough’s shoppers.
After frustrating delays, Haven Point at Pier Parade in South Shields finally opened its doors this week.
It proved an immediate hit.
The first day saw 88 people sign up as new members of the centre.
Tuesday was even more popular, with 1,281 visits, 1,171 of those swimming, with another 51 new members signing up.
In total, 2,171 paying customers used the complex in its first 48 hours, with 139 people snapping up membership deals.
And there’s no doubt it’s an impressive facility, with its state-of-the-art swimming and gym facilities.
But there was unease, expressed among the people the Gazette approached in the town’s King Street shopping thoroughfare, over the wisdom in ploughing so much money into the complex – rather than investing in the now-closed pool at the Temple Park Centre.
“In my eyes it’s just a rip-off,” said unemployed Richard Eason, 28, from Chesterton Road, South Shields.
He added: “I just can’t see why they didn’t just invest in Temple Park, which was a good facility.
“I can’t see that it would have needed that much money to modernise it.
“I saw an advert on the television today for Haven Point. They are giving it a big push and I suppose I will check it out.
“But £16m could have been much better spent.
“It’s also too expensive.”
Moira Robertson, 49, of the Lawe Top, South Shields, has already been on a “recce” of the facility with her daughter, Nicole, 23, who works for a printing company.
She said: “I was very impressed and it’s well worth the investment.
“I’ll be taking my grandchildren along and use the gym there too.
“We didn’t use any of the facilities because it’s half-term and it was very busy, but I’ll definitely give it a try.”
Nicole said: “It’s lovely and very modern. It’s a lot cleaner than Temple Park – I was never sure about swimming there.
“We used to use the pool at Brinkburn but that is tiny. Haven Point is much superior.”
Jobless Ethan Jolly, 20, from The Nook, South Shields, is another person looking forward to checking out the pool.
He said: “I’m not a gym man, but I like the look of the pool from the pictures I’ve seen.
“I took my mate’s bairns to Temple Park and my mam’s bairns are home taught and going to the pool is like their PE sessions.
“It looks like an asset for the town.”
Full-time carer Winnie Hope, 53, from Marsden, said: “In this day and age there is surely a better use for £16m than a swimming pool.
“I would have rather seen an investment in housing and in creating jobs.
“I never used Temple Park myself, but the grandchildren did. I can’t see any real reason why that was closed.”
Her husband, Kevin, 60, added: “I went to Temple Park years ago and it was a good facility.
“I can’t really see why they needed to invest all that money.”