Rallying call from Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell call as councillors vote to close Scartho Baths
GREAT Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell has told campaigners opposed to the closure of Scartho Baths to "fight on" despite the council last night voting to close the 50-year-old swimming pool.
As expected, plans to build a new £8.4 million leisure centre, with a swimming pool, gym and sauna, at Cromwell Road, Grimsby, were approved by councillors last night.
It means the Scartho Road pool will close in three years, once the new pool is open for business.
However, Mr Mitchell has encouraged campaigners, who garnered more than 7,000 signatures calling for the pool to be saved, to keep up the fight.
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Mr Mitchell, whose Christmas card for this year features an image of him and his wife Linda McDougall inside the Scartho pool holding up a rubber ring carrying the words "Save Our Pool", said: "The campaigners should fight on."
He told the Grimsby Telegraph that the council should have taken more time over its decision to close the pool in order to assess the potential cost of refurbishing it.
At last night's meeting, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors made a plea for the project to be put on hold to consider other options, but all 25 Labour councillors voted to press ahead with building the new facility.
The 14 other councillors present abstained.
Mr Mitchell said: "I wanted the council to take it more slowly, consult more widely and to give us more information about the relative costs of prolonging the life of Scartho Baths as compared to the costs of building a new pool.
"I think a big decision like this needs to be taken with all the information before the public."
Conservative group leader Keith Brookes (Con, Haverstoe) claimed that the ruling Labour group had restricted bidding for the design contract for the new leisure centre to just one firm, Newcastle-based architects Faulknerbrowns.
He said that another company, Competition Pool Solutions (CPS), had been denied the chance to bid, despite claiming it could build an eight-lane 25-metre pool for more than £2 million less than the design which has been approved.
Councillor Brookes said: "I think tonight is the last chance for the Labour group to show some respect for the people of North East Lincolnshire. I would ask them to look again at the possibility of building the new pool on Scartho Road."
However, when Councillor Alex Baxter (Con, Scartho) proposed that a second company should be asked to prepare a costed design for a new swimming pool, he was advised by monitoring officer Rob Walsh that this would breach the council's procurement rules and that his amendment was therefore invalid.
Councillor Andrew De Freitas (Lib Dem, Park), leader of the Lib Dem group, said the council was repeating the mistake it made 40 years ago by putting brand new leisure facilities in the wrong location.
But his suggestion of holding a select committee on the issue was dismissed by Mayor Mike Burton (Lab, Immingham), who pointed out that this proposal had already been rejected at last month's full council meeting.
Council deputy leader Mick Burnett (Lab, Croft Baker) said: "This will be a fantastic leisure facility which will benefit the community of North East Lincolnshire for years to come. The new pool will be energy efficient, it will have eight lanes and it will have disabled access."