What now for the Oasis?
THE future of a multi-million pound leisure project at the Oasis hangs in the balance as council chiefs lose patience with the developers.
After leaseholders Moirai missed several key deadlines for moving forward with plans to build an indoor ski-slope, an arena and hotels, the lease on the iconic facility has now been altered.
The Adver understands Moirai has been told that if it does not have a formal application in place for the development by May, along with a company to run the ski-slope signed up, the council will have the power to take back the Oasis.
However, opposition councillors have called for the lease to be taken away now so a new partner can be found to move forward.
Since Moirai took over the venue in 2012 there have been a number of problems. Initial deadlines to submit applications by early 2014 were missed. On top of that, key refurbishment work to the pool-side changing rooms and iconic dome have been put back until the end of this year.
The final straw appears to have come when it emerged many local businesses were owed thousands of pounds when a subsidiary company owned by Moirai went bankrupt.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “Moirai missed the original deadlines for submitting a planning application for the North Star site, although good progress has been made in reaching agreement with potential operators of the leisure facilities.
“Councillors have been considering whether to allow more time for the planning application to be submitted, taking into account the progress with operators and the amount of technical work needed to support an application of this scale.”
The lease has previously been altered to help push the £65m project forward but now the cabinet has said if there is no progress by May action will be taken.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “We owe it to Swindon residents to do everything possible to see the town get a snow dome and music arena. The easy option is to forget about it.
“This is last chance saloon and we must see a planning application show serious intent soon.”
The Labour Group has previously called on Moirai to be stripped of the Oasis and its leader has once again repeated the call, saying a more reliable company needs to be found.
Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said: “The Labour Group position is that we feel the council should be withdrawing from the contract.
“The terms have been broken and we feel it is time for the contract to be terminated.
“Deadlines have been missed and Swindon businesses have lost thousands of pounds.
“There is a stipulation that if Moirai do not reach certain targets they can cancel the contract. The scheme is still workable but it needs another partner. Just because Moirai does not fit the bill does not mean it is over.”
In the past Moirai has cited difficulty in securing bank funding for delays but said work will go ahead on the repairs during the winter, and that it remains committed to the development.
Moirai was contacted by the Adver to discuss the change in the lease but declined to comment.