Swimmers in a splash as two Newcastle pools remain shut

Swimmers in a splash as two Newcastle pools remain shut

29 July 2020

THE gates are to remain locked at two of Newcastle’s most popular outdoor swimming pools for the remainder of the summer.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council has this week confirmed that the children’s Tropicana pool adjacent to the Newcastle Centre and the hugely popular Rock Pool at South Promenade will remain closed to the public due to Covid-19 concerns.

And while the Northern Ireland Executive has given the green light for indoor pools to reopen, the local authority has confirmed that it is not yet in a position to confirm when swimmers can return to the Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick.

There is speculation that the heated Tropicana pool may never reopen, given the local council’s redevelopment plans for the Central Promenade site.

Last week, the Recorder revealed ground condition tests at the site of the Newcastle Centre ahead of its major redevelopment are due to recommence shortly.

It’s understood the work will focus on land to the side and rear of the complex, including the Tropicana pool which could also be bulldozed as part of an ambitious redevelopment proposal.

The local authority is preparing to press head with investigative work at the town centre location — including bore hole tests — to gather as much information as possible before it presses ahead with a multi-million pound investment.

Council officials say that they recognise the need for modern leisure and community facilities at the site of the Newcastle Centre with several options on the table.

They include a complete rebuild which include an extension to the existing centre, a complete refurbishment of the complex or partial rebuild and partial refurbishment.

It’s believed that retaining the Tropicana pool would restrict redevelopment proposals and the outdoor facility is most likely to be demolished, with enhanced car parking also set to be a key plank of any new proposal, in tandem with significant disabled access improvements.

The Rock Pool is Northern Ireland’s only remaining outdoor seawater pool and earlier this year it was the subject of a structural survey.

Attempts to close it a number of years ago were vigorously opposed by residents who succeeded in forcing the local authority to overturn its decision.

Many people in Newcastle and from neighbouring areas learnt to swim in the outdoor pool when they were young and there is great affection for the facility.

Confirmation that the Rock Pool will not reopen this summer prompted a number of people to take to social media to highlight the importance of the facility to the town and surrounding area.

One person wrote: “The Rock Pool is such a great resource and is a really distinguishing feature in Newcastle. We’re very lucky to have it and should make every effort to keep it going.”

Another resident described confirmation that the facility will not reopen this summer as “such a shame”.

She added: “As the only functional open air sea pool left in Northern Ireland the Rock Pool ought to be celebrated and included in Discover Northern Ireland’s tourism landmark buildings and locations information. It should also be publicised in the Outdoor Swimmer Magazine.”

A council spokeswoman confirmed that the council took a decision to close all seasonal facilities in Newcastle, including both outdoor pools, due to Covid-19.

She said the decision was considered in the council’s emergency business plan tabled at the local authority’s Active and Healthy Communities Committee meeting on June 15 and ratified at the full council meeting last month.

In relation to the reopening of the indoor swimming pool at the Down Leisure Centre, the spokeswoman said the local authority was currently considering recent announcements by the Northern Ireland Executive on the reopening of pools and health suites and in relation to spectators at outdoor facilities.

She added: “At present, these facilities remain closed until further notice. 

“The council is taking a phased approach to the reopening of its leisure facilities to ensure the safety of both staff and customers. Any reopening dates for these activities will be communicated in due course.”