Shropshire Star

Full steam ahead on £13 million north Shropshire swimming pool project

Usual democratic procedures will be swept aside so that a council can get on and build a new swimming pool in north Shropshire.

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Artist's impression of the new Whitchurch pool. Picture: Shropshire Council

Leading councillors have decided to press on with the £13million project to build a new swimming and fitness centre in Whitchurch and to delegate decisions to a cabinet member and a council officer.

Shropshire Council's cabinet was told that costs of the project have already boomed by £1 million and they want to iron out the decision-making process so they can get on with the job before they are swamped by ever-rising inflation.

Political leaders of all parties have welcomed pressing ahead with the scheme.

Lib Dem leader Councillor David Vasmer called it a "great day for Whitchurch". Labour's Julia Buckley welcomed the "fantastic news".

And Conservative cabinet member in charge of the project, Councillor Cecilia Motley, said a public consultation exercise had shown "overwhelming support" from the town, which has been without a pool since the outbreak of Covid-19.

The project plan will go to a meeting of the full council later this month. It is hoped that the building work will start in 2024 and be finished the next year.

"We want to proceed as quickly as possible," said Councillor Motley. "We will be watching the pennies very, very carefully."

Officers believe that the £13million budget will be able to absorb inflationary pressures.

The money is set to come as a loan to the council from the Public Works Loans Board but will have long term cost implications for the council.

Councillor Motley said it would be built to the best environmental standards that it could be, to use as "little energy as possible."

Fellow cabinet member Councillor Dean Carroll praised local councillors for their campaigning on the issue for many years.

Council leader Councillor Lezley Picton had the issue as a policy commitment too.

She said that to prevent any minor changes having to get approval from full council first they would delegate decisions to be made to Councillor Motley and senior council officer Mark Barrow.

"We want to get this built as soon as practically possible," said Councillor Picton.

Councillor Vasmer for the Lib Dems welcomed the move as "great for the people of Whitchurch."

Councillor Buckley also welcomed the "fantastic news" for Whitchurch but queried why the pool in Shrewsbury's Quarry Park was still closed.

Councillor Picton said out of the four pools in Shrewsbury, one was still closed but they are working on it.

"There is an issue with the roof," said Councillor Picton. "We've had the teams up on ropes and we are waiting for a cost analysis.

"We hope to get that issue resolved and the pool reopened."

And Councillor Motley added: "We are not sitting on our hands on this at all."