Towns risk losing swimming pools

OPEN air swimming pools in two market towns could be forced to close if community groups cannot afford to take them over.

OPEN air swimming pools in two market towns could be forced to close if community groups cannot afford to take them over.

The pools in Beccles and Halesworth are both run by Waveney District Council, but cost the authority thousands of pounds every year to operate and maintain.

Now the council has decided that as the pools are not providing value for money, it will either hand them over to community groups or close them for good.

Halesworth open air swimming pool, which was used by 1,831 people in 2007/8, costs Waveney £13.50 per visitor and Beccles pool costs £5.82 for each person using it.

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Waveney District Council's cabinet last night agreed that Halesworth pool will be run by the town's playing fields association from next April.

The cabinet also decided that Beccles pool, which has been open for 50 years, will no longer be managed by Waveney from April next year but it is hoped that a local group will be able to take over the running of it.

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Stephen Ardley, the council's portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, said that the money saved by no longer subsidising the outdoor pools will be used to provide modern health and fitness facilities in both towns.

Beccles councillor Chris Punt said that land has already been secured for a new sports complex in Beccles, which would include an indoor swimming pool and that outline plans are due to be submitted soon.

He said: “It would be smashing to be able to phase out the outdoor pool once a new one opens, but it seems we are going to have a two or three year gap, which is a shame.”

Graham Elliot, who has been working closely with the Friends of Beccles Open Air Swimming Pool group, said that the group hopes to be able to take over the running of the pool if a feasibility study is carried out.

He said: “The group is ready to set up a charitable trust and take on the running of the pool to make it a first class, sustainable facility for local people and visitors alike.”

As well as stopping subsidies for Halesworth pool, Waveney is also going to stop looking after the town's Rifle Hall, which is used by many community groups.

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