Pool hopes suffer blow

HOPES of a new pool complex being built in Ipswich suffered a serious blow today when it was revealed there had been a huge cost blow-out in the project.

HOPES of a new pool complex being built in Ipswich suffered a serious blow today when it was revealed there had been a huge cost blow-out in the project.

Ipswich Borough Council faces a £13million shortfall in its plans to create a new Olympic sized pool opposite the Portman Road football ground.

Today the council revealed that it is now leaning towards ploughing up to £400,000 into the creaking Crown Pools complex while funding options for the new centre are looked at.

Judy Terry, the councillor with responsibility for culture and leisure, said a feasibility study put the cost of the Portman Road complex at £26m - far in excess of the £18m suggested in early consultants' reports.

Since only £13m will be raised by the sale of the site, which currently serves as a car park, the project is now in doubt.

Mrs Terry said problems with securing Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grants and the cost of the council moving to unitary status, which will see it assume responsibility for running some services previously run by Suffolk County Council, had contributed to the problems.

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“A couple of years ago we'd have expected to get a substantial HLF grant for this but obviously at the moment all that is going into the Olympics,” she said.

“What we're looking at doing is giving Crown Pools an extended life of eight or ten years.

“That would mean refurbishing the shower facilities and trying to make it an acceptable standard for the public.

“At the same time we are proposing that we look at applying for an HLF grant for the new pool after the Olympics, so about 2011.

“We think that may be the more sensible option.”

As well as upgrading showers, money will also go into improving the plant and machinery which keeps Crown Pools running.

The borough council is set to discuss its policy on the new pool in September.

Mrs Terry said: “It's not that we don't want to do it but with such a large amount of money we have to look at our other options.

“I know a lot of regular swimmers will be disappointed but we do have to make sure we spend public money in the wisest possible way. It's a huge financial commitment.”

Today Team Ipswich head swimming coach Dave Champion said Ipswich urgently needed to address its ageing swimming facilities.

He said: “We have some great swimmers and some great people at our club but we need much better facilities, I think everybody knows that.

“A new pool would just give everybody a bit more focus.”

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