BROMSGROVE councillors have approved plans for a new multi-million pound leisure centre in Bromsgrove.
Earlier this year a report was published outlining plans for a brand new Dolphin Centre, being built in School Drive near the existing one - allowing the old centre to remain open until the new one was completed.
The £11.5 million centre proposes to include a main pool with 100 spectator seats, a learner pool with moveable floor, a fitness suite with 80 stations, a dance studio, spinning studio, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.
A car park with 200 spaces would be built on the site of the old Dolphin Centre with the current car park made available for commercial redevelopment.
But there was heated debate over the proposals at the latest full council meeting, held on July 16, with the Labour group on the authority accusing the Conservatives of trying to replace the current centre with a downgraded one.
Leader of the Labour group, Councillor Luke Mallett, said: "We believe what is being offered is less - it quite clearly is a downgraded Dolphin Centre.
"We believe this needs to go back to cabinet to have a further look at."
He highlighted the lack of a sports hall, saying there was no consideration for the young people who used the hall.
Cllr Mallett also questioned the business case, saying the authority had failed to "make hay when the sun was shining", and was now being forced to plunge the council into borrowing £9.536 million for the project.
Waseley councillor Peter McDonald added the controlling group had, had plenty of time to prepare to replace the facility but had squandered millions.
Bromsgrove District Councillor Michael Webb, the member responsible for leisure services, said he was proud to be part of the decision process, and pleased to be a council investing in services when other authorities were closing or merging facilities.
He said the cheapest option had not been picked, but the facility that was the "best for Bromsgrove" - describing it as the "jewel in the crown".
Responding to accusations it was a downgraded centre, Cllr Webb said: "There are things that are going in there, that are not there at the moment.
"We would be simply wasting money if we had a sports hall - there are sports halls already within Bromsgrove."
A motion to move the item back to cabinet was proposed and defeated.
When the vote was taken to approve the plans, all councillors voted in favour apart from the four members of the Independent Alliance.
Speaking to the Advertiser after the meeting, Cllr Mallett said: "Labour back a new leisure centre for our town and have campaigned for the council to commit to providing one for several years.
"The plans agreed at council will unfortunately see some facilities lost and downgraded, whilst also committing Bromsgrove taxpayers to almost £10 million of borrowing.
"I believe that Bromsgrove deserves at least a like-for-like leisure centre replacement."
Bromsgrove District Council leader Margaret Sherrey said: "I think it is very excellent.
"It won't be a downgrade, and will help people get healthy and fit."