ESTON BATHS: Closure risk after estimated revamp cost comes to £1.7m
A swimming baths hit by flood damage could be closed for good after the council said it would cost £1.7m to bring it back into use.
Redcar and Cleveland Council is now considering another potential site for Eston baths, in Normanby Road, Eston, and said it would look at external funding as it did not want to burden taxpayers.
The plant room at the 60-year-old baths has flooded three times over the past decade or so with the pool remaining closed since a flood last summer.
A petition set up at the weekend on the change.org website calling for the council to repair the baths and re-open them as quickly as possible looks set to surpass its original target of a thousand signatures.
Redcar and Cleveland Council issued a statement on Monday over the future of the pool.
Cllr Steve Kay, the independent cabinet member for health, housing and welfare, said the authority wanted to see a swimming facility continue in Eston.
He said unfortunately the current pool was located in a high risk flood area and repairs costing hundreds of thousands of pounds had previously been carried out.
Cllr Kay said: “A specialist consultant has concluded that the basement that contains the plant room will continue to flood in severe weather, even with additional flood defence measures put in.
“Therefore, the recommended solution would be to move the plant to above ground level to where the former children’s learner pool is located.
“In addition, the building is nearing the end of its useful life and has suffered damage to its sub-structure due to repeated flooding.
“It is estimated that to bring the pool back into a usable state by undertaking essential maintenance and moving the plant room would cost around £1.7m – this would extend the remaining lifespan of the pool to a maximum of 15 years.”
Cllr Kay said that owing to the “extensive costs”, the flooding issues and the short predicted life of the building, a “breathing space” was being proposed to take a strategic look at swimming provision across the whole borough.
He added: “At the same time, we shall endeavour to identify external funding for swimming facilities, thus mitigating the need for prudential borrowing.
“Borrowing in these difficult times would be a further unwelcome burden on the taxpayers of our borough.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we shall be exploring the option of a new pool for Eston, but not on a site prone to flooding.”
Labour have criticised the council over the failure to re-open the pool.
Former council leader and South Bank councillor Sue Jeffrey said: “It is a bit rich saying that this would be an unwelcome burden on taxpayers of the borough after the Independent/Lib Dem administration has put up council tax and councillors received a report on investment in the borough highlighting new leisure facilities in Loftus and in Redcar.
“The cost of £1.7m is low in comparison to the investment that will be needed to provide a new pool and leisure centre and is high in terms of the impact it will have on the health and well-being of local residents.
“It is yet another example of the failure to grasp what is important to the people of the borough and to understand how the council should invest for a better future for all our citizens.”
“I am asking for some commitment that there is going to be a way to open Eston baths while there are plans for new proposals drawn up so that we don’t end up in a situation where there is no facility at all in the greater Eston area.”
Conservative MP Jacob Young has also responded to the announcement.
He said: “Eston Baths was already in a difficult position before the coronavirus and that’s only been made harder due to the pandemic.
“I’m working with the council to find the right way forward that’s best for residents in TS6 and the whole borough.
“This could mean preservation of the current site, but – excitingly – could also lead to a new leisure centre in Eston which I think would be great.”
The Redcar MP claimed there had been “very little investment” in the Eston area during Labour’s previous tenure in charge of the council and he hoped to make sure it got its “fair share”.
The online petition said Eston was the closest and easiest leisure centre to get to for the approximate 38,000 residents living in Eston, South Bank, Grangetown, Teesville, Normanby and Ormesby.
The bill quoted by the council would secure the future of the baths for the next 15 years and was the equivalent of £3 per person per year.
It said: “We all agree we should have new leisure facilities, but Eston baths should not be closed permanently while the council takes a so called ‘pause’ then considers proposals, draws up plans, finds funding, gets planning, appoints contractors and then finally starts building.
“This could take years-and-years, if it ever happens at all.”
Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter
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