SPIRALLING building costs have forced South Hams Council to reduce the size of Dartmouth's dream leisure centre.

Councillors met in secret this week to discuss the way forward, after tenders from companies willing to build the complex revealed a massive funding black hole of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Determined the project should still go ahead, the district council made efforts to close the funding gap by securing an extra hefty £615,000 from the funding partners made up of itself, Devon County Council and Dartmouth Town Council.

South Hams Council has now agreed to stump up a total of £725,000 towards the four-badminton court size sports complex – £315,000 more than its original pledge.

After emergency discussions over the weekend, Devon County Council has doubled its initial contribution and is now handing over £500,000, while Dartmouth Town Council has come up trumps with a £150,000 donation.

Local planners have given the go-ahead for the complex to be built at Norton, and, if Sport England agrees its all important £960,000 grant in September as expected, the future of Dartmouth's long-awaited leisure centre is secure – although it will be smaller than envisaged by 200 square meters.

This is because the monies secured this week will not cover all of the escalating building costs, the actual amount of which is being kept under wraps by the district council.

Cllr John Tucker, the deputy leader of South Hams Council, has revealed that the multi-purpose room will be reduced in size and some of the toilets will be lost, along with two offices.

'The changes are beyond our control because building inflation is spiralling, but there will be no loss of facilities,' he said.

'Officers are working with Sport England, the county council and Dartmouth Community College to put together a package for Sport England to make a decision on.

'There are some areas we can trim and the district council has agreed to slightly reduce the specification, but it will be upon Sport England's remit, which is of a very high quality,' said Cllr Tucker.

'We have a commitment to Dartmouth because people are deprived of sport and leisure facilities.

'The council fully supports the way forward and it will go ahead, subject to lottery funding, and all the indications are that Sport England is going to support it'.