Somerset County Council will consider viable plans for a community-run Cresta pool in Chard, a decision taken yesterday sets out.
The pool, which is owned by the Council, has outlived its planned lifespan by more than a decade and now needs more than £1m of investment to replace failing equipment and to bring it up to standard.
The Council faces significant financial pressures and is not in a position to fund this work. Regeneration plans for Chard launched recently by South Somerset District Council include a pool as part of leisure facilities. Council officers met representatives from a community group at the beginning of the month to discuss their interest – explaining the steps needed for a transfer of pool ownership and are providing information where possible.
The group has submitted a formal Expression of Interest and a fully-costed Business Plan needs to be shared by 14 September. If approved, the pool ownership could transfer to the community group by mid-December.
The decision taken yesterday will see the pool close at the end of the summer holidays, Monday 3 September, then ‘mothballed’ for three months to allow proposals for a community-solution to running the pool to be developed.
If deadlines are not met and a community solution cannot be found, today’s decision approved the permanent decommissioning of the pool from mid-January, with demolition of the site expected to take place shortly after. The other leisure facilities on the site will transfer to Holyrood Academy, part of the Vector Learning Trust.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “The pool has served the community well for 30 years and outlived its expected lifespan by a decade, but it now needs considerable investment to bring it up to standard.
“With the pressures on our budgets, we simply cannot afford to fund an investment in excess of £1m for a non-statutory service. We are very happy to support the community group as best we can and allow some more time for the community to see if it can find a local solution. We have provided all the information we can to help, and now look forward to hearing back from them before the end of the month.
“We know this is a difficult time for those who use the pool, but we have to live within our means. The reduced funding to local government and the increased demands placed on us mean that councils like Somerset – and councils up and down the country – are having to reassess the services that they can and cannot provide.”
Cresta Pool has been run by 1610 Leisure Trust since 2009.
Whilst discussions are taking place, please note there are a number of alternative swimming pools in the South Somerset and Taunton Deane districts which residents might access.
The nearest community pools from Chard would be:
Crewkerne Aqua Centre, Henhayes Lane, Crewkerne, Somerset, TA18 7LZ, Telephone (01460) 77665, www.aquacentre.co.uk/
Axminster Swimming Pool, Lyme Road, Devon, Axminster EX13 5AZ, Telephone: (01297) 35800, www.flamingopool.co.uk/
Each pool is open to members of the public every day (subject to certain timetable restrictions), within 10 miles of the Cresta site with both towns on established bus routes from Chard, and equipped with suitable changing areas, hoists, ramps and car-parking bays for people with disabilities.