A NEW mini-leisure complex, including a swimming pool, is being planned for St Neots and could open within 18 months.

St Neots Town Council is putting the finishing touches to a deal that could see the former outdoor swimming pool site returned to use and the new leisure facilities merged with - and managed by - Eat 'n' Bowl next door.

Councillor Paul Ursell, chairman of the St Neots Swimming Pool Trust, is finalising the commercial agreement for the building of a new swimming pool on the land in Huntingdon Road.

The project will be financed through the sale of part of the pool site to development partnership MPM Interserve for £1.5million. The firm plans to build retirement apartments on the front of the land.

As part of the agreement, which has yet to be signed, Eat 'n' Bowl would assume responsibility for the day-to-day running and management of the facility under a nominal lease.

St Neots Mayor Councillor Barry Chapman told The Hunts Post: "This will be another fantastic facility for the town and, if everything goes according to plan, it should be open around the same time as the cinema."

The Hunts Post reported last April that the previous town council, acting as trustees, was planning to sell the entire site to developers McCarthy and Stone for £1.75m. The then councillors intended to build a pool on a new site.

However, when the political make-up of the council changed in May, the Conservative councillors decided to revisit the decision and review other offers.

The current proposal will provide a swimming pool complex consisting of two pools - one aimed at younger swimmers with play facilities and the other catering for more serious swimmers - and a climbing wall. The total cost is expected to be £1.5m.

Plans are also being considered for a retractable roof to enable the pool to have a lido feel, Cllr Ursell said.

David Parker, managing director of Eat 'n' Bowl, said: "We are enthusiastic about the idea of a new pool complex that will also include a climbing wall. However, there are still a lot of finer details to be agreed.

"It will be a nice project for the town, and it gives us a facelift at the same time as the opening of the cinema."

The previous outdoor pool opened in 1961 under the ownership of St Neots Urban District Swimming Pool Fund Association (UDSPFA).

HDC continued to manage it for several years. It was closed in 2003 after losing money, and demolished in 2005.