Town to finally get swimming pool

FOR decades horses have enjoyed top-class swimming facilities in Newmarket while people have had to make to with one dilapidated pool.But now, after more than 10 years in the pipeline, plans for a new £8.

FOR decades horses have enjoyed top-class swimming facilities in Newmarket while people have had to make to with one dilapidated pool.

But now, after more than 10 years in the pipeline, plans for a new £8.5 million state-of-the-art swimming pool and leisure centre have finally been unveiled.

Forest Heath District Council chief executive David Burnip yesterday announced a deal had been signed to secure the new facilities on land next to the existing leisure centre.

He said: "We are grateful to the people of Newmarket for their patience, but I think their patience will be repaid in what is not just a first-class sports facility, but also in meeting health agendas and promoting a healthy and more active lifestyle.

"Very soon they should be able to see bricks and mortar being laid."

The 25-metre swimming pool and separate learning pool, with a moving floor to accommodate all levels of swimmers, will be joined to the front of the existing leisure centre on Exning Road, with an extension above doubling the size of the current gym.

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There will also be a floodlit all-weather hockey pitch on neighbouring land acquired on a lease from Newmarket Upper School, and the two existing tennis courts will be replaced by three courts on another piece of adjacent school land.

A social services building will also be demolished to make way for the new centre, and Suffolk County Council is currently investigating alternative locations.

Tony Bass, Forest Heath head of leisure services, said a planning application for the pool was likely to be submitted this week, and a contractor would be appointed in the next fortnight.

Work is due to commence in August, with the all-weather pitch due to be completed by the end of the year, and the new pool opening in April 2007.

The long-running scheme had been dogged by delays, largely due to the original plan to build the pool on the site of a former gas works, which was thought to be contaminated land.

Stephen Bailey, chairman of Newmarket Swimming club, said: "It's been a long and painful wait and there were times when it looked like it might not happen at all, so we are extremely pleased."

Council chairman Carol Lynch, who is also vice chairman of governors at Newmarket Upper School, said: "I am heartened to see that significant progress is being made and that the people of Newmarket will soon have the swimming pool that, at times, they must have thought would never be realised."

Sport England has previously backed the scheme and indicated it would be willing to provide around £2.5 million toward the building cost, but the council must now submit its latest plans to the organisation, before a final funding decision is made in July.

The current pool, in the High Street, will continue to operate until the new pool is completed and the land will than be sold off for redevelopment, with the proceeds contributing toward the new building's costs.

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