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Campaign group warns Ripon could risk losing its new swimming pool altogether

Members of Ripon Pool Action Group and supporters.
Members of Ripon Pool Action Group and supporters.

A campaign group which has fought for Ripon’s new swimming pool to have a learner facility, has reluctantly warned that the city could risk losing the pool altogether if residents do not graciously accept Harrogate Borough Council’s decision.

An extraordinary meeting of Ripon City Council was held on Monday night to discuss Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) decision to provide a six-lane pool without a learner facility.

Ripon Pool Action Group said they have done all they can to campaign for Ripon, but raised fears at the meeting that any “further inflammatory statements” or delays could jeopardise the future of the swimming pool project altogether.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Doug Wentworth said: “We are pleased to have a six-lane pool - sad that the learner pool has to wait, and upset with the disregard shown to us by Harrogate Borough Council staff.

“If only Harrogate Borough Council had been transparent, performed a proper consultation, and been prepared to work with the city of Ripon, then we might have achieved something even better for this city. However, if we don’t calm down, be gracious, and accept the six-lane pool, we could well lose that pool.

“A learner pool is still much-needed, is viable, but should be seen as a separate and future project.”

The Harrogate and Knaresborough Liberal Democrats submitted an amendment proposing that Harrogate Borough Council approves plans for a five-lane pool with a learner facility, but the amendment was not passed at a full HBC meeting a fortnight ago.

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At Monday’s meeting, the Chair of Ripon’s Liberal Democrats, Gerry Johnson, said: “We remain convinced that a learner pool makes sense, both to meet local needs, and financially.”

Ripon residents spoke passionately about the need for a learner pool. Joy Fletcher said: “I wouldn’t want anything to be said now that would stop us getting a new pool. I think Ripon needs a new pool above anything else. But if we don’t have a learner pool, I just think that it’s such a missed opportunity for the health of Ripon.

“And not everybody can afford to travel elsewhere to access a learner pool.”

City councillors agreed to invite Harrogate Borough Council officers and the cabinet member leading the project to the Town Hall, to revisit options for a learner pool.

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Coun Andrew Williams (Ind, Moorside), said: “I think we’ve got to mark in the sand that we’ve made some progress as a local community, collectively, in ensuring that recently Harrogate Borough Council voted to provide a six-lane pool, and I certainly don’t want to lose that.

“I welcome that, that’s good news for Ripon. What’s disappointing is that the learner pool isn’t being provided as part of that.

“I just don’t think that it will ever happen if we don’t try one last time to get it as part of this facility.

“The idea of being able to somehow tack one on at a later date or find alternative sites in the city for a learner pool - in my view, is inviable. I think we have to be careful to ensure that Harrogate council understands that as a community we are strongly in favour of the six-lane pool, we welcome their decision, but what we are wanting is a revisiting in very short terms of the decisions surrounding not providing a learner pool.”

HBC’s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, Coun Stanley Lumley, said: “I am very pleased that the city council and the action group now publicly acknowledge that this multi-million pound investment to provide the new six lane pool along with the renovation of the leisure centre planned for Ripon will create a modern, fit for purpose facility that will serve the area for many years to come.

“I’m delighted to be able to re-start the design and build process and hope to avoid any further delays in this project. I’ll continue to consult with the people of Ripon at the appropriate time and I look forward to the day the new pool opens.”

Coun Williams said the city council would welcome an opportunity to discuss whether land for a football pitch next to the site could be used for a learner pool.