ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE’S swimming pool will have to be pulled down and rebuilt after it is shut, says the town’s MP, Angela Rayner.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for the centre to be saved after Active Tameside earmarked it for closure on September 3.
Anger is raging as classes there are set to be switched to other pools in Hyde, Stalybridge, Denton and Droylsden, especially among those who rely on public transport.
To Denton, it would take 20 minutes each way from Ashton bus station – not taking in how long it takes to get from homes to the interchange, a similar length of time to Droylsden, 30 minutes to Copley and to Hyde about 50 minutes each way.
Tameside Council, which owns the town centre facility, admitted the building was at ‘the end of its life.’
And while she shares the anger and concerns of the people facing a decision whether to make extra journeys or give up swimming, Ms Rayner concedes a total rebuild is needed, meaning a muti-million pound bill.
She told The Correspondent: “Given the age of the pool and the asbestos it is highly likely to contain, a refurbishment is not a viable option and the building would therefore have to be demolished and rebuilt.
“To give an idea of the costs associated with a full rebuild, the Wellness Centre (which began construction in 2017 and took three years to complete) cost £17 million to build.
“The current rate of inflation means this cost would be considerably higher on a project starting today.
“There is no doubt that this is absolutely devastating news for the community and I completely understand the upset and anger that people are feeling right now.
“This was not a decision that was taken lightly by Active Tameside.
“There are major concerns with the current site, including the pool filtration and heating systems as well as the roof and the tiles.
“The utilities bill alone is approaching £270,000. It simply is not feasible to keep the pool open in its current state.”
Chief concern among many people, including parents of children who are learning or have learned to swim, is how do they get to different pools?
But leisure facilities, including a new pool, will be at the heart of plans to redevelop Ashton.
Ms Rayner added: “I know the closure of the pool will cause massive upheaval and disruption for those that use it regularly but Active Tameside staff assure me that they are working hard to rearrange timetables across their sites to accommodate users and groups at other centres.
“I realise that this won’t be convenient for some people, especially those that rely on public transport, but hopefully the alternative provisions will mean that users don’t have to miss out on their sessions.
“As part of the masterplan for Ashton, discussions are ongoing between the council and partners – including the owners of the two shopping centres – to look at what can be done to redevelop the town centre, including the capacity to bring in new leisure facilities to the centre.”
Once Ashton’s pool closes, it will join the town’s cinema and theatre in standing empty, while plans are ongoing to redevelop the market ground – which many believe is not fit for purpose – and the portion of the bus station that currently stands unused an increasingly overgrown.
And even though Tameside Council received almost £20 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund, any changes will not be instant.
Ms Rayner continued: “The cost of living crisis has hit everyone hard.
“Energy bills continue to rise and Tameside Council’s funding has been absolutely decimated by the government for the past 13 years.
“The council secured £19.87m in Levelling Up funding and has ambitious plans to transform the town centre, including the market grounds and the land around the bus station.
“But this won’t happen overnight.
“The hard work continues to make Ashton a place for everyone to live, work, and visit.”