Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Maidstone council looks to build new leisure centre as part of £434 million spending plans

A council has unveiled a huge £434 million spending programme for the next 10 years, which includes forking out £60 million for a new leisure centre.

But members have warned the authority will need to keep a close eye on borrowing.

It seems the Maidstone Leisure Centre's days are numbered
It seems the Maidstone Leisure Centre's days are numbered

Nearly £350m would have to be borrowed to fund the “pretty massive” ambitions, which would see £15m go purely on interest payments in the first five years.

The plans were discussed by Maidstone council’s cabinet at their last meeting.

The authority wants to spend £155.7m on its commitment to build 1,000 affordable homes, £20m on its own temporary accommodation for the homeless, and £6.3m on new bin lorries.

Of interest to thousands of visitors, however, will be a plan to replace Maidstone Leisure Centre with a new £60m centre.

Just last month the council committed to spending £2.5m upgrading the current facility, in Mote Park which will see it get a refurbished soft play area and cafe.

The pool at Maidstone Leisure Centre
The pool at Maidstone Leisure Centre

Its future was at risk due to rocketing maintenance costs, which had gone up by £1 million in the last year, and councillors had called for urgent investment in the 50-year-old building, for fear it would become too unsafe to stay open.

But a longer-term plan was yet to be drawn up.

The £60m provision would allow it to work towards building a new one by 2029.

The leader of the council, Cllr David Burton (Con) said: “These are pretty massive capital ambitions.

“As we look at other councils around the country, we know that this can be the undoing of them.

Cllr David Burton
Cllr David Burton

“We will have to ensure that each one of the projects goes through its own due diligence measures.

“We must take all of them in a very level-headed manner and not forget that there is external funding to be chased up and brought in.”

Cllr Burton, who is not seeking re-election at the May election, urged his colleagues to be “Careful, careful, careful – but still keep the ambition.”

Cllr John Perry (Con), the cabinet member for finance, reassured his colleagues that although the financial strategy he was presenting set out a long list of projects, they were not being green-lighted at this stage.

He said: “Each will have to undergo due diligence. It will have to meet our own internal rate of return measure and sometimes may also require planning permission.”

Cllr John Perry
Cllr John Perry

And he said that, unlike those other councils that had got into difficulty, Maidstone was approaching the capital programme from “a very sound financial base.”

A KentOnline report last month showed the council had one of the lowest debts of any local authority in Kent, with £5m in 2023/24, the equivalent of £28 per head. That’s compared to an eye-watering £157m amassed by Canterbury City Council.

Deputy leader Cllr Paul Cooper (Con) said: “This is tremendously ambitious and not without risk."

He warned: “It would be very easy to sit here and play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money.”

He too urged caution when spending the money, reminding everyone that: “We no longer have negative real interest rates.”

Cllr Paul Cooper
Cllr Paul Cooper

The council's 10-year plan sets out a list of projects that will cost £434m.

The council expects to get some of that from external funding such as developer contributions and grants, and to contribute some money itself from the revenue (council tax) budget.

The remaining £349m would have to be borrowed and repaid over the next 50 years.

The cabinet agreed to set a maximum "prudential limit” to borrowing at £369m.

In addition to the schemes mentioned, Maidstone council intends to spend the following:

Money will be spent on street furniture and "greening" the town centre
Money will be spent on street furniture and "greening" the town centre

Corporate Property Acquisitions - £25m

Carbon Reduction to council’s property estate £14.9m

Infrastructure Delivery - £10m

Disabled Facilities Grants - £8m

Section 106 Funded Works Open Spaces – £4m

Commercial and Community Developments – £3.8m

There is some provision towards a Leeds/Langley Bypass
There is some provision towards a Leeds/Langley Bypass

Asset Management / Corporate Property - £3.27m

Fleet Vehicle Replacement Programme – £3.2m

Parks and Open Spaces Infrastructure Maintenance – £2m

Heathlands Garden Community - £2m

Software/PC Replacement - £2m

Parkwood Property Investment to meet EPC targets - £1.2m

Money will be spent improving the town's parks, like Mote Park
Money will be spent improving the town's parks, like Mote Park

Parks Improvements - £1.1m

Public Realm and Greening projects for Maidstone Town Centre - £1m

Lockmeadow ongoing investment - £1m

Leeds/Langley Bypass preliminary costs- £1m

Other Property Works to meet minimum energy efficiency standards - £1m

Grounds Maintenance Machinery Replacement Programme – £855,000

The council's offices at Maidstone House will be upgraded
The council's offices at Maidstone House will be upgraded

Works to Maidstone House - £800,000

Improvements to Play Areas - £740,000

Street Scene Investment - £500,000

Feasibility Studies - £500,000

Flood Action Plan - £350,000

Kent Medical Campus Innovation Centre - £350,000

There will be support for Maidstone Museum's new archaeological gallery
There will be support for Maidstone Museum's new archaeological gallery

Digital Projects - £300,000

Mote Park Kiosk Refurbishment and Extension - £250,000

Medway Street Car Park improvements - £195,000

Museum Development Plan - £180,000

Improvements to Maidstone Cemetery - £120,000

Waste Crime Team Additional Technical Resources - £40,000

Cllr Clive English is the leader of the Lib Dem group on the council

Cllr Clive English
Cllr Clive English

He said: “This expenditure is not set in stone. It is an indication. It will be relatively easy to remove projects, much harder to add them in.

“On that basis, I can accept the programme.”

But he warned: “I am not in favour of expenditure on the Leeds/Langley Bypass. We all know this is not going to happen.”

“And if it did, it would be a bad thing, because the only way it would was if we accepted a huge additional quantum of housing development.”

Other councillors welcomed at least some aspects of the plan.

Cllr Paul Harper (Fant and Parkwood Independents) welcomed in particular the provision for a new Maidstone Leisure Centre, something he had been campaigning for.

Cllr Maureen Cleator (Lab) was pleased to see a provision to maintain the council’s property estate; something, she said, that Kent County Council had failed to do.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More