Ripon’s new swimming pool plans have now been formally approved by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee, but not all members voted in favour due to their “deep concerns” over the ground stability of the site and fears that taxpayers’ money could be swallowed up by a sinkhole.
Whilst the majority of councillors voted in favour of the application before them (eight in total), there were three abstentions from councillors Pat Marsh, Trevor Chapman and Victoria Oldham, and Coun Nigel Simms voted against the plans.
Speaking at the planning committee meeting on Monday where the application was determined, Harrogate Borough Council’s head of culture, tourism and sport, Michael Constantine, said the pool is “much-needed” in Ripon, and gave reassurance that a series of geological investigations have been undertaken to assess the ground stability in light of a sinkhole that opened up next to the existing leisure centre in February last year.
The new swimming pool and associated leisure facilities detailed in the plans will be built next to the leisure centre. Mr Constantine said the new pool will see a 60 per cent increase in water space from the ageing Ripon Spa Baths.
He said: “We have undertaken a series of geological investigations to inform the building’s foundations, responding to local residents’ concerns.
“We are not here to develop a site at any costs, we are doing it safely and with an understanding of the geology.”
He went on to explain that Harrogate Borough Council has worked with a leading ground stabilisation company and specialists in geology and sinkholes to carry out assessments of the site and produce a ground stabilisation report.
But Ripon resident Stanley Mackintosh, who is a chartered civil engineer, claimed that the site “cannot be made safe.” Addressing the planning committee, he said: “The land itself is unstable, it’s actively unstable, and the geology has been seriously misunderstood. The site itself is a conglomeration of ancient sinkholes.”
Coun Nigel Simms, who voted against the application, said: “I would love to support this application, but I can’t. The ground stability does make it an untenable use of public money.
“Once a hole has formed underneath it, it goes in. I do not believe that you can build this thing and that in 50 years time it will still be there for the use of the people of Ripon. I don’t think it’s an economic use of public funds.”
Coun Pat Marsh, who abstained, said she felt conflicted. She said: “My head won’t let me approve it, but it won’t let me refuse it either, because the people of Ripon deserve this new pool.
“I am really struggling with this because I sat here when we refused the previous application, and if we had approved it, it would be in a sinkhole now. So I have very serious concerns, and I am not too certain.”
Coun Zoe Metcalfe spoke in support of the application. She said: “Ripon desperately needs a new pool. It is a fantastic investment, and will be a great community asset.”