Hundreds turn out for pool meeting

HADLEIGH residents have taken the opportunity to allow local politicians know exactly what they think of swimming facilities in the town at a heated meeting.

HADLEIGH residents have taken the opportunity to allow local politicians know exactly what they think of swimming facilities in the town at a heated meeting.

More than 250 people packed the Grand Hall of Hadleigh's Guildhall to have their say as Babergh council grapples with the issue of replacing the town's swimming pool, which is nearing the end of its natural life.

Many residents were turned away due to the strict fire regulations of the hall and gathered outside to make their voices heard.

Some of those who remained shouted and booed as representatives from the different political parties at Babergh outlined the difficulties they faced in securing funding for a new pool.

Strategy committee chairman Nick Ridley said it was likely many people would be in favour of paying out an extra £5 a year in council tax for a new pool.

But he warned if the council did impose an above inflation rise on the council tax, the Government would cap the rate, resulting in services being cut elsewhere.

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“The Government will cap councils that do not keep the tax down,” he said.

But Labour's Jim Quinlan accused the council of never asking for funds from external organisations such as Sport England to cover the £3.25m price tag of a new facility.

“That seems strange to me. It's like saying one day I will win the lottery but will not buy a ticket,” he said.

The swimming pool was built 35 years ago and it is not known how long it would survive with just refurbishment and repair works, rather than a brand new pool with a new tank.

Babergh council's head of leisure Tim Mutum said it would be impossible to repair the tank of the pool if it failed - the only thing to do would be to remove it and build a new pool on the same site or elsewhere.

The council had been told it would cost £700,000 to renew the plant which keeps the pool safe to operate - but if it did that it ran the risk of seeing the pool itself fail a year or two later.

Mr Mutum said: “We don't know how long the pool will last - but we do know it was built for a design life of 30 years and it is not expected to last much longer.”

During last night's meeting, residents were asked to submit a question on a postcard as they entered the hall to get feedback on some of the issues concerning them.

A member of the public asked why the pool had been left until it was falling apart to do anything about its long-term future.

Sue Wigglesworth said: “There has been a lot of money spent on the pool so it is not at all true to say that we haven't been aware of the situation. We have been aware of it.

“The funding even then wasn't forthcoming. It's a very patient game if your are looking for public funding.”

Further consultation with residents on the matter is scheduled to take place before a decision is made concerning the budget for 2006/07.

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