£100,000 agreed for Sparta Hut users

Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O'Hagan.
Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O'Hagan.

Derry City Council has agreed to provide more than £100,000 to rehouse various sports groups displaced due to the closure of the Sparta Hut in Brooke Park.

A total of £15,130 has now been approved towards the cost of leasing alternative facilities and equipment hire, as well as removal works, over the next two years.

The payment was authorised by the Council’s Development Committee at their monthly meeting this week, and will be added to the £87,600 already committed up to April 2016.

The closure of the Sparta Hut was approved earlier this year and this summer it was agreed to provide additional expenditure for temporary accommodation and facilities for the displaced users.

In a report brought before the committee, the council’s Head of Culture, Leisure and Community Services Noel Munnis said: “The temporary accommodation is required for two years to allow for the redevelopment of the site and the construction of a new dry leisure facility.

“Temporary accommodation has been delivered as reported with the provision of a cabin in Brooke Park.”

The report states that reaching agreement with the various user groups and developing relocation options while meeting capital timelines “has been challenging” for council officers.

“The original contract for cabin hire had to be postponed, and potentially cancelled, at very short notice incurring additional contract expenses to the value of £7,000. Additionally site investigations identified a number of logistical issues in relation to health and safety, disability access and utility connections costing a further £5,000. In order to secure agreement with the various user groups minor alterations to equipment and access to space in both the cabin and the Rosemount Factory incurred an additional expenditure of £3,000.”

The additional costs will be met within the existing Leisure and Sports budget.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle led cross-party praise for council officers who managed to relocate all user groups in the immediate area.

Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley said the increased expenditure was in the context of the ongoing multi-million pound refurbishment of Brooke Park.

Chairman of the committee, Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O’Hagan said the original plan had been for the existing users to continue using the Sparta Hut until the new Contact Sports Centre was ready, but that health and safety issues came to the fore that couldn’t be ignored.

“So I think the expenditure is quite justified”, he said. “It just wasn’t practical to ask those user groups to be basically spread to the four corners of the city.”

A spokesman for Derry City Council said that in December 2013, following a Health and Safety Risk Assessment review of the Sparta Hut, it was decided that the facility should close with immediate effect. “The closure was the result of the general decline in the structure of the building and the operating procedures in place at the time,” he said, adding: “Although the building is known to contain asbestos the presence has always been safely contained and appropriately managed according to strict guidelines.”