Indoor pool is vital for future of resort

Indoor pool is vital for future of resort

9 May 2018

FUTURE leisure provision in Newcastle must include an indoor swimming pool to meet the needs of local people and visitors, according to a senior politician.

Mournes councillor Willie Clarke said an indoor pool must be included in the modern indoor leisure provision which people have been demanding for many years.

In February, the Recorder exclusively revealed Donard Park was being viewed as a venue for a major sports hub in Newcastle with plans to create new pitches and an ultra-modern pavilion being drawn up in conjunction with Shimna Integrated College and the Department of Education as part of a shared community development.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council recently appointed a consultant to complete a detailed feasibility study which will examine potential sites for a new leisure complex in the resort and also focus on potential sites, costs and private sector partnerships.

Cllr Clarke met the consultant at the Tropicana outdoor pool to look at future leisure provision. He made it clear Newcastle needs a wet weather centre and that some form of swimming pool must be at the heart of any new development.

“Such a facility in a major seaside resort is essential for local people and visitors in my opinion,” he said.

“I would be flexible on the size of such a pool and this is an issue which could be discussed further. Some form of pool must be a priority in any new leisure provision in Newcastle.

“Redeveloping the current Tropicana site is an option, but I believe we need to be flexible in arriving at a location which is right. I am not going to stand in the way of developing a new pool elsewhere, if the Tropicana site is deemed unsuitable.”

Cllr Clarke said providing a new pool was an issue the current local authority and its predecessor have been reluctant to run with, accusing both of ”kicking this particular can down the road.”

He declared: “People in Newcastle are quite clearly saying they want a pool and that one should be delivered.

“It is clear we need an wet weather facility. Tourism is the district’s main economic driver and Newry, Mourne and Down Council is keen to make our area the number one visitor destination in Ireland.

“We may have no factories, but we do tourism extremely well and we need to build on what we have.

“I am acutely aware a new swimming pool is being built in Downpatrick and that there are others in Newry and Kilkeel. I am not looking for an exact replica, but we need something that will work and meet the needs of ratepayers in Newcastle and the surrounding area.”

Cllr Clarke, who believes a modern gymnasium is also essential in any new leisure provision in Newcastle, said the needs of local people must be at the top of the local authority agenda.

“If we are really serious about becoming the number one tourism destination in Ireland then I believe we need a new pool, alongside new sports and community provision. If you don’t have that, you are not catering for tourism or local need.

“Perhaps we need to be innovative and possibly look at new leisure provision being split across several sites. It is important to put forward these ideas now so they are reflected in the consultant’s final report.”

A Newry, Mourne and Down Council spokesman confirmed a consultant has been appointed as part of a tender process to look at future leisure provision in the resort with the focus on reviewing site options and availability.

He said the consultant will also review previous feasibility studies on new leisure development and establish the local authority’s requirements to meet current and future needs, based on its sports facility strategy completed last year.

“The consultant will identify opportunities for innovation and the inclusion of commercially viable elements to cross subsidise the more traditional facilities. He will also undertake a high level ‘reality check’ regarding the cost for build, outlining delivery operating model options, costs and potential income,” said the spokesman.

The consultant’s completed report is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month after which it will be tabled at a meeting of the local authority’s Active and Healthy Communities Committee.