Harrogate council hopes to reopen Ripon and Starbeck Baths next month
A senior Harrogate councillor says he hopes Starbeck and Ripon Baths will reopen next month.
Councillor Stanley Lumley, cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport at Harrogate Borough, said the swimming pools were currently closed despite a government go-ahead to reopen because of staffing shortages and "challenges" around social distancing.
He added the council is "hoping" they can reopen in May, although Knaresborough Pool will stay shut due to maintenance problems.
"We are hoping to open Ripon Pool in May and providing we have got staff availability, very soon after that we will be opening Starbeck," he told a meeting last night.
"Staff shortages are a problem - there was no point recruiting stuff during the pandemic for obvious reasons and now we are on a campaign to recruit.
"We do hope to open the pools as soon as possible... providing nothing changes with government guidelines or we have any serious staffing shortages."
Under the government's roadmap out of lockdown, swimming pools and gyms were allowed to reopen on 12 April when the Hydro in Harrogate and Nidderdale Pool in Pateley Bridge welcomed back customers.
Knaresborough Pool has been closed since the end of last year and will remain shut longer as repairs due to be carried out by specialist engineers from Spain have been halted by travel restrictions, the council previously said.
It said there is an "ongoing" issue with the pool filter and that it was trying to find a UK-based firm to fix the problem.
It comes as the council is pushing ahead with plans to demolish Knaresborough Pool and build a replacement leisure centre at the same site, while a major refurbishment of Ripon Leisure Centre is due for completion "before the end of the year," councillor Lumley said.
After construction delays, the "multi-million pound" Ripon project had previously been scheduled for completion in November, and the final costs are not yet known.
The upgrades are being carried out as a replacement for the 116-year-old Ripon Spa Baths which has been put up for sale for an undisclosed sum.
The move has been met with opposition from residents and councillors, with councillor Pauline McHardy last night making calls for the sale to be withdrawn while work on the city's regeneration masterplan is underway.
"This is a golden opportunity for Ripon to try to maintain and hold onto the swimming pool site to be used as something else," she said.
"It's no good us trying to come up with ideas of what it can be used for if you are going to sell it from right under our noses."
Councillor Graham Swift, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development, responded: "This council several years ago made a commitment to spend considerable sums of money in investing in leisure facilities in Ripon.
"We have to fund that and one of the investments we have made very clear now for several years is the sale of the current swimming pool.
"It will definitely be available for commercial use or for bidding for public use. The Ripon Renewal Project is full steam ahead and all ideas are extremely welcome."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter