With Fermanagh and Omagh District Council planning on consulting various groups and individuals in the local community on proposals for the future development of the Lakeland Forum, The Impartial Reporter spoke to a number of the facility’s regular service users to see what they would like to see happen.

Prominent businessman, Terry McCartney, who has served as chairman of the Enniskillen Lakelanders swimming club, but was speaking to us in a personal capacity, said he believed there was “definitely room for improvement” in the Forum’s facilities, which he added were “probably not in the best state of repair”.

Giving one example, Mr. McCartney, whose children Ellie and Lewis are both talented swimmers who compete at events regularly, said that the current spectator area in the pool area needed to be bigger.

He said that the club held a swimming gala last month which he estimated was attended by a couple of hundred people.

The motel owner claimed that the current spectator area had space for around 30 people and needed to be three times the size.

Indulging in some ‘blue sky thinking’, Mr. McCartney also questioned if the Council would be prepared to move its leisure facilities to a different location in Enniskillen, thus freeing up the Forum’s present site for tourism development.

The businessman, who admitted he was wearing his ‘tourism hat’, said that the site at the Broadmeadow offered “unrivalled frontage on to the lake” and said that it would be fantastic if that area was instead used as a hub for watersports with a restaurant and coffee shops.

Mr. McCartney said that in many other towns across Northern Ireland, leisure complexes tended to be in deprived areas where they offered employment opportunities.

He described the Broadmeadow site as “fabulous” and said that siting a leisure complex on the land there was “not making the best use of it”.

Meanwhile, Fermanagh and Western Football League chairman Neil Jardine, pointed to ongoing flooding issues with the four grass pitches at the Derrychara Playing Fields, just across the bridge from the Forum.

Mr. Jardine said that these pitches were “unplayable” for the vast majority of the season, leading to a situation where one local football club didn’t play at home for six months.

He said that money would need to be spent on some kind of flood defences for these pitches, but claimed that any redevelopment plans would focus on the “bricks and mortar” of the main Forum building. Mr. Jardine said that it was “quite obvious” that the building needed investment, given its age.

For Joe Graham, whose disabled son William plays boccia for Northern Ireland, the Forum’s biggest asset is its staff, describing them as “out of this world”.

Mr. Graham, who is a volunteer coach of the Fermanagh Lakers Boccia team, said that the staff at the Forum had been “very accommodating” over the years.

In terms of the building itself, Mr. Graham called for the current entrance to the leisure centre to be redesigned.

“You get soaked from all the drips under the balcony when it rains. Whoever designed that has a lot to answer for,” he said. While Mr. Graham acknowledged that work has been done to improve the disabled facilities at the Forum, he made a further suggestion given his experiences with his son, who has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic. The Irvinestown man urged the Council to consider installing a changing bench and a hoist in one of the disabled changing rooms at the venue.

Caroline Scott, who is a member of Wellington Bowling Club, agreed with Mr. Graham’s positive assessment of the staff at the Forum. Her club uses the main hall for its league games every Tuesday, from October to February each year. She said: “We are happy with the facilities that are provided at the Forum and the staff are more than helpful each night.”