SCALED-BACK plans to build a new six-lane swimming pool in Worcester look set to go ahead despite appeals to reinstate a scrapped scheme for an eight-lane facility.
Cash-strapped Worcester City Council revealed earlier this month a £13 million scheme for a new eight-lane, competition-standard pool at Perdiswell had been scrapped due to cost pressures and had been replaced with plans for an extension to the leisure centre.
At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday, April 15 members agreed to approve the plans, which are expected to cost up to £7 million, despite widespread concern from people involved with swimming that it would not be suitable.
Chairman of Worcester Swimming Club Adele Rimell spoke at the start of the meeting, saying the smaller pool would mean there was not enough capacity to provide swimming facilities to everyone who wanted it.
“No one knows what the funding situation will be in 12 months and the consequences will be with us long after you have left office,” she said. “This will be your legacy.”
But Cllr Roger Berry said the council had little choice.
“In a world without local government cutbacks I would be more than happy to propose a pool with eight lanes,” he said.
“The reality is we live in very tough times.
“There is no way the city is going to be able to fund an eight-lane pool.”
He added it was “a miracle” the council were even able to go ahead with the revised plans.
“It would be cloud cuckoo land for us to take on a cost we can’t afford," he said.
Chairman of the programme board Duncan Sharkey presented a series of possibilities for the future of the scheme – to refurbish and extend the Perdiswell centre, to go ahead with the original plans to build an entirely new facility, to build a smaller pool, to ‘mothball’ the scheme in the hope it could be returned to in the future, to seek more funding for the plans or to scrap it entirely.
He said the ultimate decision would have to be made on cost.
“Running an eight lane pool is substantially more expensive for the council because of the amount of water we need to keep heating and the number of staff,” he said.
Council leader Cllr Adrian Gregson said: “We should be really welcoming this opportunity.
“Six or so months ago there was a very real risk we wouldn’t get to this stage.
“We’ve got to the stage now where we can very positively say there will be a swimming pool in Perdiswell and the development will be better than the one we started off with.
“But we do recognise the concerns and disappointment that some people have.
“We can now get rid of the debate and start cutting sods.”
The cabinet agreed to approve the plans to refurbish and extend the Perdiswell centre, which will also include a new gym. If the plans are approved by the full council in June the facility could be complete by the end of next year, six month earlier than the previous proposal.
The current pool in Sansome Walk is set to be demolished once the building work is complete.