COUNCIL chiefs have rubber-stamped plans to rip out landscaping to create much-needed parking spaces at the multi-million pound Wyre Forest Leisure Centre.

Wyre Forest District Council's cabinet agreed to the submission of a planning application by Places for People Leisure (PfPl) Ltd for additional spaces in the leisure centre car park to cope with demand.

They also agreed the costs of the works would be shared 50/50 with PfPl. The council's contribution would be funded from a contingency reserve for this project and there would not be any additional impact for council tax payers.

In January, the Shuttle reported how members of the facility, in Silverwoods Way, had been left scrambling for one of the coveted 171 spaces and were forced to abandon their cars on pavements and grass verges.

The plans, to remove some of the landscaping at the site to expand the car park and create an additional 31 spaces, have now been submitted by Places for People Leisure. They will be considered by Wyre Forest District Council's planning committee at a later date.

Councillor Marcus Hart, Wyre Forest District Council leader, said at the cabinet meeting: "It comes to something when your brand new, state-of-the-art, fit for purpose leisure centre is so successful and has so many visitors that the car parking facility is not sufficient.

"It is important we as a council act quickly because we don't want to upset residents in the Silverwoods Way development and we don't want to upset our own residents and users of the leisure centre.

"So we are acting quickly, we have considered a number of options but the logical thing to do first of all is to look to see if we can reconfigure the car park, so that we are not expanding on further land. We are reconfiguring from within."

Wyre Forest Leisure Centre has proved to be exceptionally popular - with on average 35,000 users visiting the facility each month. This increased to 47,000 in January - 4,000 more than the combined numbers for the Wyre Forest Glades Leisure Centre and Stourport Sports Centre in previous years.

If the planning application is submitted and approved, then the works are expected to be completed in May.

In January, leisure centre member Michael De Groot, told the Shuttle: "There is quite a bit of frustration among members. We are all paying premium membership for facilities.

"People are getting very frustrated and agitated, causing people to chase for spaces in the car park, trying to beat to the next available - it's quite dangerous as there isn't much room there anyway."