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 Published on: 27th November 2013   |   By: The Newsdesk   |   Category:

  County taxpayers have forked out more than a quarter of a million pounds to provide 24 hour a day security for an empty leisure centre in the town, My Watford News can reveal. The Bill Everett Leisure Centre, on Leggatts Way, has remained dormant since its closure in 2008, though it has been the subject of a surveillance operation which has cost Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) £281,482 to date. This sum has been spent on a guard situated on site, operating out of a porta cabin. Last year HCC decided to market the leisure centre site but then decided to hold back after a shortage of primary school places in Watford was revealed. In September 2012 the county council decided that there was a “business case” to demolish the centre and a subsequent planning application to level the building was approved by Watford Borough Council in August. HCC is set to foot a £116,000 bill to demolish the site- taking total spending on the centre since its closure to an eye-watering £397,482.  Following the demolition the site could be sold for residential development, though HCC indicated that it would keep the doors open for an Academy looking to establish a new school. Round the clock security will be curtailed once the demolition is complete, with security fencing to be erected to prevent access to the site. My Watford News can reveal that HCC delayed making a decision whether to sell the site for four years in order to make the most of the fluctuating property market. A HCC spokesman said: “It is correct that, on occasions, HCC has held on to property for a number of years as this is in the best interests of taxpayers. For example, waiting until the property market is stronger and we can get a much better price when selling outweighs the short-term costs of keeping the site secure.” HCC councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, who represents Central Watford and Oxhey, has called for a “detailed investigation” into the delay of action on the site. He said: “Whilst one can expect a vacant site to be secured before it is sold-on or redeveloped one has to ask why the four year delay and why waste almost £300,000? Could no community group have been given a fee use of the buildings in the meantime? These are staggering amounts that could have been used to protect services not just spent on private security firms.” Read more in December’s issue of My Watford News. What do you make of the £280k bill to provide surveillance for the Bill Everett Leisure Centre? Email  

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