Ripon Coun Andrew Williams said he no longer stands by his suggestion that residents could make a financial contribution towards the city’s new swimming pool.
At a city council meeting on March 12, Coun Williams said if Harrogate Borough Council is serious about amending the plans to make the pool a six-lane with a separate learner pool, the city council could work with them to help if funding is an issue.
He stressed the importance of getting the plans right for generations to come, and said residents could make a contribution through their parish precept to ensure that the city gets all the facilities it wants.
But in a recent letter submitted to the ‘Gazette, Coun Williams said he no longer stands by what he said following a briefing from Ripon Pool Action Group (RPAG), which is campaigning for the existing pool plans to be amended.
Coun Williams said: “Your columns reported that I had raised the need for Harrogate Borough Council to urgently engage in meaningful consultation over their proposals for an inadequate swimming facility in Ripon.
“I also raised the point that if funding was a potential issue then subject to agreement by a referendum of Ripon residents an idea to provide funds would be to add a modest sum - and I meant no more than £5 per year, to the parish precept, which over a 20 year period would provide three or four million pounds towards the pool costs.
“However, I have since received a detailed briefing from members of the Ripon Pool Action Group who advised me that Harrogate Borough Council had failed to apply for grants which would have provided additional resources towards the cost of the new swimming facility.
“They also advised that a number of swimming organisations believe that the costings adopted by Harrogate council are excessive and that a new pool can be provided for much less than Harrogate council claim it will cost. Consequently having received this information I do not believe it would be just nor should it be necessary to ask Ripon residents to pay a penny more towards the cost of the pool.
“In the last 10 years, more housing has been built in Ripon and in the next 10 years hundreds more will be built. We need a swimming facility that will meet that increased demand in the future.”
The leader of Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), Coun Richard Cooper, told the ‘Gazette: “Harrogate Borough Council has asked the Ripon Pool Action Group to let us know of any grants for which they think the new multi-million pound pool might be eligible. We will be happy to look in to these - the more money we can lever in the better so we would be grateful to hear of any new sources of funding which we haven’t found.
“If Ripon Pool Action Group is aware of any area where we could reduce our costs we would be pleased to hear them. So far we have not been provided with that information. When you are spending many millions of pounds on a new facility like this it is important that every penny counts so it would be good to see some meat behind this claim so we can act accordingly.”
Coun Cooper said he is happy to attend a Ripon City Council meeting to give a briefing on the new swimming pool plans. Residents attending Ripon City Council’s last meeting welcomed the suggestion from councillors to invite HBC’s Director of Economy and Culture, Trevor Watson, to their next meeting. Those campaigning for a learner pool and a six-lane facility wanted the opportunity to lobby and put questions to the director about the pool project.
Although Coun Cooper has told the ‘Gazette that he would attend himself, Coun Williams maintains it would be more appropriate for officers working specifically on the new swimming pool project to attend.
Coun Cooper said: “It is entirely appropriate that an elected councillor attends meetings such as this as I did recently about our work to rejuvenate Ripon market. So if Ripon City Council wish to invite me - which they have not done yet - I will be very happy to attend.
“What I would say is that details of grants we can apply for which we haven’t found and areas where costs can be reduced should not wait until then. Simply let the borough council have them now so we can get on with the job armed with that information.”
Dewi Winkle of RPAG, said: “The support for our campaign is growing. We intend to continue with our message, and get more people to put pressure on HBC to deliver what Ripon needs.”