Council leader defends Oasis deal despite legal concerns

Councillor Robbins was speaking to the Local Democracy Reporter before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, November 16, where members of the ruling Labour group endorsed the proposal.

The deal is set to see Seven Capital submit an application for planning permission for a rebuilt Oasis, with the listed elements of the pool area and dome retained, but the sports hall and music venue lost.

It has also been revealed by Seven Capital that there will be no wave machine or water cannon.

Once it is built and ready to open, Seven Capital may be able to buy the centre from the council for not less than £6m.

The agreement also says Seven Capital is no longer expected to build the £270m indoor snow centre on the former Clare’s factory site in North Star just across the road from the Oasis site.

Confidential legal advice to the council, which has been reported previously, says the new agreement may be unlawful and runs a risk of legal challenge.

Cllr Robbins said: “The council has been working on a deal which would see the Oasis brought back into use for some considerable time.

“However, the huge costs of refurbishing the leisure centre make this an extremely complex deal. It is, though, not without risks, which the members of the previous administration are well aware of.

“The proposal going before cabinet has been reviewed by independent specialist valuers, who have advised that the current approach delivers best consideration to the council.”

Leader of the opposition Conservative group, Councillor Gary Sumner, who was deputy leader of the council until May’s elections, said: “The Conservatives are very supportive of the proposal to refurbish the Oasis leisure centre. In March, we had agreed in principle to a £15m deal.

“It is a concern that six months after taking control in May that Labour is selling the Oasis and North Star land for just £6m.

“The new Labour council has also decided that the legal advice it has received on their deal is private and confidential and cannot be discussed in public.

“We have not been briefed, and we are concerned about the secrecy where there should be transparency and openness. No decision of councillors should ever put staff in a position where they are breaking the law.”

But Cllr Robbins said the suggestion the council could sell the Oasis for significantly more is not the case: “Council officers have advised me that the value of the deal Cllr Sumner refers to is not something that was ever on the table and the figure he quotes is not a sum the council could command recognising any development at the North Star and Oasis sites could only take place once the Oasis is fully refurbished in line with the listing.”

Seven Capital has about 90 years left to run on a lease on the Oasis site, which is still council-owned – making the company the effective owners.

The leisure centre was run by specialist not-for-profit company GLL, which trades as Better, until mid-November 2023, when it was closed at the start of the autumn lockdown.

Better then said it would not be opening it again as it could not make a profit – meaning Saturday, November 18 is the third anniversary of the Oasis being closed.

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