Scartho Baths given stay of execution so public can have their say on closure plans
SCARTHO Baths has been given a stay of execution – to allow residents to have their say on plans to close the 50-year-old facility.
Councillors last night voted to hold a three-week public consultation on leisure facilities in the borough, starting from today.
The decision came after a petition signed by almost 7,000 people objecting to the closure was debated at last night's full council meeting at Grimsby Town Hall.
As reported, North East Lincolnshire Council announced in January that it would be closing Scartho Swimming Pool as part of a £9-million revamp of leisure facilities in the borough – with a replacement pool to be built next to a refurbished Grimsby Leisure Centre in Cromwell Road.
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However, the decision sparked anger from some residents, who said the new pool would be less accessible to people who live in the centre of town.
And now, in response to claims that there has been a lack of public consultation, the council is giving rate payers a say on where the authority's leisure budget should be spent.
However, council bosses insist that with more cuts on the way, tough decisions will still have to be made.
Among the questions asked of residents in the online consultation, is whether they would prefer to replace Scartho Baths or Grimsby Leisure Centre.
Another is whether investment should be targeted at Cleethorpes Leisure Centre or Immingham Swimming Pool.
Councillor Mick Burnett, the council's portfolio holder for tourism and culture, said: "After receiving the petition we felt it important to give the public another opportunity to tell us where they think we should be making investments in leisure facilities.
"Difficult decisions have to be made in tough economic times and unfortunately a number of our facilities are coming to the end of their useful life, needing millions of pounds worth of investment to make them fit for the foreseeable future."
The consultation, which was proposed by the ruling Labour group, was passed with Lib Dem support. However, it was opposed by the Conservatives and UKIP after a Conservative proposal to hold a select committee on the issue was rejected by the Labour group.
Councillor Keith Brookes, leader of the Conservative group, said that previous scrutiny panels had failed to deal with the issue.
He said: "We need a full select committee meeting where all the organisations, all the clubs and all the residents can come forward to give their views. We need to do the job right for the people of North East Lincolnshire.
Councillor Andrew De Freitas, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: "I sincerely hope that we will approach this with an open mind and look at all the options and come up with a set of proposals that will be accepted by the majority of people in the borough."
Reacting to the decision, Alan Barratt, from the campaign group Save Scartho Baths, said: "The view of the group is that a three week electronic consultation will not be sufficient. I would urge people to make their views heard, otherwise they will lose this pool."
Addressing councillors during the meeting, Mr Barratt put forward two alternative proposals to either refurbish the existing swimming pool at a cost of between £1.8 and £2.2-million or build a brand new facility on the Scartho Road site at a cost of between £7.5 and £9.6-million.
Mr Barratt said: "Our view is that the existing site is well within reasonable grounds for full refurbishment, it is centrally located, with good public access routes, it meets the social needs of the people, and the needs of our society's most deprived areas."
He added that the council's 2008 Leisure Review, which proposed replacing both Scartho Baths and Grimsby Leisure Centre, described the latter as being in "very poor condition", having a "low standard of facilities" and would require "significant" maintenance costs in the future.
By contrast, Scartho Baths was described as being in "average condition" and "currently fit for purpose."
However, a 2010 condition survey of the swimming pool, a summary of which was circulated to councillors prior to last night's meeting, concluded that it would cost between £1.6 and £2-million merely to carry out essential maintenance works on the facility.
The report added: "This would not present a long term solution or provide a modern, efficient and attractive facility that would meet the latest standards for public swimming facilities."
As part of the council's consultation, residents are being asked the following questions:
Should the council continue to provide quality leisure facilities within the borough of North East Lincolnshire?
Given the tough decisions the Council is having to take around substantial reductions in funding, should it replace ageing leisure facilities?
The following facilities are coming to the end of their life, which would you replace, either Grimsby Swimming Pool, or Grimsby Leisure Centre?
The following facilities require investment to maintain them for the future- would you invest in Cleethorpes Leisure Centre or Immingham Swimming Pool?
The consultation is available online from 9am today until 2pm on Friday, November 30.
People without access to a computer can complete the survey in one of the borough's 10 libraries, where assistance is available.