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£17m plan for four new swimming pools in city
Four leisure centres could close – including the Richard Dunn Sports Centre at Odsal – as part of a huge Council shake-up of the district’s sports facilities.
All four would be replaced by four new-build swimming pools, including a “super-pool” complete with a diving centre.
But all four new centres would be built within the city of Bradford, meaning Bingley would lose its public baths.
The Council plans to build one large public swimming pool in the city centre, as well as three new community pools across Bradford – one in the south, one in the south west and one in the north of the city.
It has not yet revealed exactly where they would be.
It is hoped the plans would tackle a £7 million maintenance backlog in the district’s ailing leisure centres.
A review carried out by Sports England into Bradford’s nine local-authority run pools revealed that some of them were no longer fit for purpose, with outmoded facilities and high running costs.
It also highlighted that some parts of the district was very poorly served, in comparison to other areas.
Coun Andrew Thornton, Bradford Council’s executive member for sport, said in particular there was an over-provision of sports facilities in the Aire Valley and an under-provision in Bradford, so his department had taken the decision to build all four new sports centres within the city.
He said: “The reality is, the concentrations of population and housing both now and the projections of where population and housing are going to be in future, doesn’t match with where we have currently got provision.
“The lack of provision is predominantly around Bradford.”
The Tories gave the plans a cautious welcome, but raised concerns about rural communities possibly losing their pools to more urban areas.
Coun Rebecca Poulsen, Conservative spokesman for sports, said: “This is one of those proposals that will be quite widely welcomed by many residents. Four new swimming pools is very good news for local people.”
But while she “wholeheartedly” welcomed the overall investment in new facilities, she said people in Queensbury and Bingley would “prefer to have an existing pool close to home, rather than a brand new one elsewhere”.
Coun Thornton said the Council would pay for the new centres to be built, before closing and selling the old sites to recoup much of the money.
He said: “The reason why we are doing it that way is so we can make sure we are able to open the new facilities before the existing, older and outdated facilities, that are in the wrong places, are closed.”
And he said the new centres would offer at least as many facilities as the old ones, if not more.
He said: “The city centre facility will have a 25-metre, eight-lane main pool, a learner pool and a diving pool, and then associated games and studio space. There isn’t a need for big sports halls in a city centre location.”
Instead, the new community pools could have sports halls, to compensate for those lost at Richard Dunn.
The Council is setting aside an initial £17.5 million from its 2014/15 capital spending budget to start the project off.
Coun Thornton said the new-builds would be so energy efficient, they would save the Council an estimated £1.7 million a year.
In comparison, he said the four centres earmarked for closure were “not fit for purpose”, and described Richard Dunn in particular as a “black hole” in the Council’s finances.
The centre is one of the Council’s highest energy consumers, and one of its worst producers of greenhouse gases.
Coun Thornton said: “It’s very expensive to maintain, very expensive to run. It’s got a very big, high roof which costs a fortune in electricity and gas.”
The proposal will go before the Council’s Executive on Tuesday. If approved, the plan would move to the next stage, where a full business case would be drawn up, before going back to the Executive for final approval.
Work could start in 2015. The first phase would see the new city centre pool built, as well as the new community pool for south Bradford.
Once these are built, the Richard Dunn and Bowling pool sites would be sold off, with the money used to pay for the construction of the other two community pools in north Bradford and south-west Bradford. Bingley and Queensbury pools would then close.
Councillors in Bowling yesterday welcomed plans to replace their ailing pool.
Coun Imran Khan (Lab, Bowling and Barkerend) said he thought the new facilities would prove popular with the community.
He said: “We don’t know exactly where they are going to be, but I think we are going to have two new swimming pools.
“There would be a facility close by, and they are talking of a ‘super-pool’ in the city centre as well – and obviously all roads lead to the city centre.”
Coun Khan said Bowling’s pool was showing its age.
He said: “It’s in desperate need of some TLC, which unfortunately it’s not had for a while.”
He welcomed the decision to only close the old pool once the new one was up-and-running.
He said in the past the Council had tended to close old facilities before opening new ones, and that often people were still left waiting for their new-builds “a few years later”.
And when asked whether the site could be sold off for housing, he said it could be more suited to some kind of community centre.
Fellow ward Coun Hassan Khan (Lab) said he would be in favour of the replacement of Bowling pool with a new pool in the south of the city, on two conditions – that it wasn’t too far away, and that the new one opened before the old one closed.
He said: “If it’s a modern, new facility, why not?”
Chairman of Bingley Amateur Swimming Club (BASC) Geoff Killock said: “We’re going to fight this. They can’t let this happen. They should be putting money into the pool or building a new one,” he said.
And Bingley councillor David Heseltine said he was disgusted with the “fanciful” idea of shutting the baths.
He said: “The idea of community pools is that they’re actually serving communities, but they seem to want to rip one out of an established community.”
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