Plans are under way for the next seven-figure investment in St Neots – a new swimming pool.
Following the opening of the long-awaited cinema complex, plans for a pool could finally start to move forward with a £1.2million project.
The pool would probably be indoors – so not a direct replacement for the lido which closed in 2003 – but would include a leisure pool, learning pool, and café on the former outdoor pool site in Huntingdon Road.
As with some of the previous suggestions for the project, it could see the building merged with – and managed by – the Eat ’n’ Bowl next door, with other attractions including a climbing wall.
However, there is still a contingent among the members of the St Neots Swimming Pool Trust who would like to replace the outdoor pool.
St Neots town councillor Barry Chapman said that while an outdoor pool was still a possibility, the trust was currently progressing with an indoor facility, with the most recent plans submitted by Turnstone Estates, the developers behind the Rowley Arts Centre.
“There is some support for an outdoor pool but I think perhaps people look back on it with rose-coloured spectacles,” he told The Hunts Post. “The indoor pool is slowly progressing – it has moved along a couple of steps.
“We have got the artist’s plans done, all the finance calculations agreed, how it could be run economically and we have agreed the strategy behind it.
“The pool would be designed to attract more parents and children, which then relieves the One Leisure pool from having as many mother and toddler sessions and frees it up for more serious swimmers.
“It is just another one of those facilities that we need that we will drive forward and deliver. It is important to have these things as part of our community.”
Cllr Chapman said the pool would be financed by building another facility on some of the land, such as a supermarket or residential home. The project, he said, was being delayed by negotiations over the surrounding land.
“The issues regarding planning use of the pool land, the sale of the ex-dental surgery, the land ownership between Longsands Academy and Huntingdonshire Regional College and the county council plan for additional pre-school facilities are interrelated and under discussion,” he said.
A new swimming pool has been on the cards for some time but the scheme has had numerous setbacks.
A £1.75m deal was struck for the old lido site in 2011 with developers McCarthy & Stone looking to build retirement homes. But that project was reviewed and dropped after the political make-up of St Neots Town Council changed.
A subsequent £1.5m deal with development partnership MPM Interserve, with plans for retirement flats on the front of the land, has not progressed since 2012.
Two alternative sites previously identified for an outdoor pool – Riversmead and The Brickhills – are no longer available because they have been designated green open spaces.
A retractable roof has also been taken off the list of requirements because of the complications of maintaining the optimum temperature in the pool and avoiding airborne particles contaminating the water.
The lido, which opened in 1961 and during its prime attracted crowds of up to 800 people a day, suffered as visitor numbers plummeted, costs soared and health and safety regulations changed.
It was forced to close in 2003 before being filled in two years later.