Campaigners call for backing of Rock Pool

Campaigners call for backing of Rock Pool

17 February 2021

LOCAL politicians are being urged to weigh in with their support for the full restoration of Newcastle’s outdoor Rock Pool as a community campaign to retain the facility is stepped up.

The news comes after claims last week that the cost of work to carry out major repairs to the seawater swimming pool could cost up to £5m.

Campaigners who want to see the facility repaired and reopened — and who have held informal discussions about its future with Newry, Mourne and Down Council — have revealed this week that they want to step up their efforts to save the pool which enjoys protected status.

They say there is a lot of support in the community for the local authority-owned pool, with suggestions that the Heritage Lottery Fund may be one of a number of bodies which could provide a cocktail of funding to finance the much-needed repair work.

While survey work continues at the pool to determine the full extent of its structural integrity and what level of investment may be required, campaigners say that the true cost of repairs have yet to be confirmed.

They are encouraging people to write to elected representatives indicating their support for the pool to reopen and how important the facility is for the local community.

People are also being encouraged to write letters to local newspapers “to get the message out across the district” and highlight the benefits of the Rock Pool.

Campaigners say that they understand the scope of the work that will be needed at the pool and how the local community might be involved in its future, describing claims about the final cost of all the work that is required as “unhelpful and alarmist”.

In addition, campaigners insist that the value of the Rock Pool cannot be quantified simply in pounds and pence and to do so is reductive. 

Campaigners say the pool is a community hub used by generations of locals and visitors and a facility that provides huge benefits to the physical and mental health of those who use it.

They have warned that it would be a massive “own goal” if the local council countenanced any closure of one of the last remaining seawater pools in the country, a facility that could help boost tourism.

Council officials have confirmed that consultants are to be appointed shortly to carry out a detailed investigation and that once this task has been completed, the local authority will decide its future.

Preliminary investigation work has revealed a number of issues which require urgent attention and involve considerable cost.

A number of options for the pool’s future are also being discussed with suggestions that the local authority may join forces with the Newcastle community in a bid to secure grant funding to carry out much-needed repairs.

It is being reported that the Rock Pool’s concrete structure has extensively degraded, while the filtration system to filter sea water is almost unusable, with seawater pipes so corroded that rust is coming off them and contaminating water being filtered. 

In addition, the pool is unable to retain water as a result of cracks in the concrete and has been described as no longer fit-for-purpose, with one of the most significant concerns for council officials that the pool does not comply with current health and safety standards, with suggestions that a complete rebuild may required.

With the final decision on the way forward to be taken after councillors have studied the detail of the specialist survey, examined all the options and discussed potential funding streams, Mournes councillor, Glyn Hanna, fears that the final repair bill could be anything between £1.5m and £5m.

He believes that while the pool should remain, a “substantial amount of money” is required no matter what option is selected going forward, describing information about the structure of the pool which has already emerged as “grim”.

Cllr Hanna said the cost of stabilising the pool is estimated between £250,000 and £500,000, with the facility remaining shut until funds became available to restore it to full operational use.

He believes that if a business plan could be produced which included “massive funding” which could be found from outside sources, he would be happy to support the pool’s restoration. He also wants to see the detail of a business plan and wants to be convinced that the pool would not end up becoming a millstone round the neck of ratepayers. 

Cllr Hanna said the only way that he could support the restoration of pool is if substantial external funding is secured to rebuild it, with little burden on ratepayers and a community group managing and running the facility.

A local authority spokesman said the organisation has completed initial consultation and site visits with statutory bodies, to advise on the statutory requirements for the outdoor Rock Pool in Newcastle.

“Consultant appointments are taking place to undertake further intrusive and advisory services, and once all the information is available, the council will consider next steps for this project,” said the spokesman.

“Both the Rock Pool and Newcastle Centre are included within the council’s capital programme for the district and final details of these projects have yet to be decided.