Pools to close over insurance problems
THE last two open-air public swimming pools in Suffolk are to close because of funding and insurance problems.Earlier this week the EADT revealed the future of the pools at Halesworth and Beccles were in jeopardy and yesterday Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee confirmed both pools would not open this year.
By David Lennard
THE last two open-air public swimming pools in Suffolk are to close because of funding and insurance problems.
Earlier this week the EADT revealed the future of the pools at Halesworth and Beccles were in jeopardy and yesterday Waveney District Council leader Mark Bee confirmed both pools would not open this year.
Mr Bee said that until the past few days the council had wanted to open the facilities but after being told that its insurance company would not provide cover unless nearly £400,000 worth of improvements were carried out it had no choice but to close them.
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Next week's meeting of the council's executive is being recommended to confirm the closures but Mr Bee admitted councillors had no other option.
"The council finds itself in an impossible position when its insurers take this decision at the eleventh hour," said Mr Bee.
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"However, we are determined that support is given to both towns to restore swimming for their community."
The announcement has angered people living in both Halesworth and Beccles.
Veteran international swimmer Neil Howell, of Halesworth, said he was "very upset" at the news. His six-year-old daughter, Alice, learnt to swim at the Dairy Hill pool.
"I believe these pools to be the last operating outdoor public swimming baths in Suffolk and their closure will mark the end of an era," he said.
"Many swimmers started off learning their strokes in that pool and have since gone on to swim at a competitive level. All the local schools have used the facility for over 30 years and if they want to continue lessons, they'll have to go to Bungay and incur transport costs."
At Beccles, plans are being put together to fund a new partnership scheme involving the district council, town council and a private company, to provide a sports facility that could include an indoor swimming pool.
A report from a district council working party revealed that the Disability Discrimination Act required improvements to be carried out at both pools costing at least £180,000 and a further £200,000 would have to be spent to bring them up to "general operational standards".
Without these improvements being carried out the council's insurance company would not provide cover and the district council would be liable in the event of any claim.
The pools were due to open for 16 weeks between May and September but both have operated at a loss for a number of years.
Waveney councillors are being recommended to make sure that the £33,480 already allocated to run Halesworth pool in 2005 and £37,484 at Beccles are used for sports and community projects in the respective towns.
Officials at the district council will be working in the coming months to return the pool at Halesworth to the town's playing field association.
The association leased the pool to the district council for a peppercorn rent in the 1970s but its members admit they do not have the funds to carry out the repairs necessary.