Hundreds back campaign to protect Knaresborough's Conyngham Hall from potential leisure centre build

Hundreds of people have backed a campaign to protect the grounds of a historic estate after it was earmarked by Harrogate Borough Council as a potential site for a new leisure centre.

The grounds of Conyngham Hall -a historic estate near the River Nidd - are being considered as a site for the new leisure centre.
The grounds of Conyngham Hall -a historic estate near the River Nidd - are being considered as a site for the new leisure centre.

The council is proposing to build a multi-million pound swimming pool and gym at one of four locations in Knaresborough.

These include Hay-a-Park, Knaresborough House or Conyngham Hall - a historic estate and business centre near the River Nidd.

A redevelopment of the town’s existing 29-year-old swimming pool on King James Road is also being considered.

Launching their campaign against the Conyngham Hall option this week, Liberal Democrats said they had received concerns from a "huge swathe" of residents over the development of the site which they say would be "completely unacceptable".

The leader of the council, Coun Richard Cooper, responded saying residents will be consulted with before any decision on where the leisure centre is to be built will be made.

Coun Cooper also said he had "no idea" why the campaign has been launched against "something which isn't anywhere near even becoming a firm proposal."

He said: "There is no favoured site yet because we don't yet even know what facilities the people of Knaresborough want from a multi-million pound investment in leisure facilities.

"No decision has been taken on what exactly those facilities will be or where they will go. When those decisions are taken then the public will be consulted in the same way they were about the new pool currently being built in Ripon."

Once built the new leisure centre will be run by a new council-controlled company after the borough council last week approved a major management overhaul of its leisure services.

The company - to be called Brimham's Active - will be launched by August 2021 and will take control of the district's 11 leisure venues.

The council will borrow £23million from the government to upgrade some centres and build the new gym and swimming pool in Knaresborough, which could be completed by December 2023.

More than 500 residents have backed the Liberal Democrat's petition against the Conyngham Hall option.

The campaign's spokesperson Matt Walker said: "The Conservatives are running our district like a concrete council, paving over every bit of urban green space they can find.

“We are standing with residents — a huge swathe of which have already been in touch with us to express their deep concern — and are launching a campaign to oppose this terrible option.

“We ought to be investing in green spaces, not building on them, especially not when there are much better options elsewhere in Knaresborough."

Knaresborough town councillor Hannah Gostlow also criticised the council for not holding early talks with residents on the proposals.

She said: “I’m very disappointed by the appalling lack of consultation on the location of the leisure centre we have seen here in Knaresborough.

“Knaresborough residents, nor Knaresborough Town Council, have been consulted on the location of the new leisure centre. It strikes me as arrogant; Harrogate councillors thinking they know what’s right for Knaresborough better than residents and their town representatives.”

Council leader Richard Cooper added: "I am very surprised at these statements as no-one is proposing building anywhere yet. We are years from a decision and there have been a number of options suggested."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

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