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Towns' pools under threat

PUBLISHED: 10:51 26 September 2008 | UPDATED: 07:40 01 August 2010

BECCLES and Halesworth's open air pools are amongst a number of amenities likely to be sacrificed following a review of leisure services in north Suffolk.

BECCLES and Halesworth's open air pools are amongst a number of amenities likely to be sacrificed following a review of leisure services in north Suffolk.

The review, which was put forward to a Waveney District Council (WDC) cabinet yesterday, says that the two pools and the Halesworth Rifle Hall are not providing enough value for money to be kept open, and Waveney does not believe it can achieve its strategic objectives without losing some of its underperforming assets and projects.

None of the facilities managed to score half of the maximum points available, and so were deemed to “show little evidence that they achieve the key strategic priorities for leisure,” and do not “have the achievable potential to do so in the future.”

The review recommends that Beccles open air pool no longer be managed by the council from next April. However it also states that officers should look at options for continued provision of the service as part of the Enabling Agenda, where outside operators are brought in to manage services.

Maureen Saunders, chairman of the Friends of Beccles Pool, said that they would be putting forward proposals to help run the pool if WDC decide that enabling options should be allowed.

“Basically we're going to fight tooth and nail to do that,” she said. “It's a waiting game at the moment. Hopefully it will carry on but how confident can you be? I cannot see the pool opening next year as things stand.

“I'm not surprised this has happened because it's been under threat for a number of years. But we were promised by Mark Bee that there would try and keep it open for as long as possible, until the new one was built.”

The review also says that the Halesworth pool should be returned to its owners, the Halesworth Playing Fields Association (PFA), and so would also no longer be managed by the council from next April.

But Tony Goldson, chairman of the PFA, said that such a move would be “disastrous” as the association does not have the funds to run it and the pool would close.

Meanwhile it is suggested that the Halesworth Rifle Hall should no longer be offered as a service from April next year, and that the council should explore options on the site in partnership with Halesworth Town Council - which has so far refused to take control of the hall in its current condition.

Council vice-chairman Sandra Leverett said: “We don't think in its present condition it is fit for community use. We would want to have appropriate funding to use it.”

The Beccles pool had 9,080 users in 2007/08 - meaning it cost £5.82 a head to run. Meanwhile Halesworth pool, which had 1,831 users in 2007/08, cost £13.50 and Halesworth Rifle Hall, which had 1,050 users, £7.54.

These are compared with Bungay Pool and Gym, which scored 14 points and had 141,222 users at the cost of just 27p.

The Friends of Beccles Open Air Swimming Pool are holding a coffee morning on October 10 from 10am to 12pm to raise money to keep the pool open. To become a member of the Friends you can apply at The Gazette Bookshop in The Walk.

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