A CAMPAIGN calling for an old outdoor swimming pool to be restored to its former glory is gathering momentum.
As reported in last week’s News Guardian, North Tyneside Council has drawn up plans to transform Tynemouth’s outdoor pool into a visitor attraction.
However, residents have hit out at the proposals to create an open-air theatre and activity space for volleyball or volleyball court on the site.
Instead, they want to see the alfresco pool restored, giving people the chance to swim at the beach in a safer environment than the North Sea.
However, borough mayor Linda Arkley fears that if the proposals do not go ahead, £4.5m of planned improvements along the coast might have to be abandoned too.
Thousands of people have so far backed the campaign.
In less than a week, more than 7,000 people have given their support to a page on the social networking website Facebook calling for the former swimming baths, now a rock pool, to be reopened.
Barry Bell, one of those leading the campaign group, is urging the council to put its plans on hold so that other options can be discussed.
“We would like the opportunity to fully explore all the options of turning it back into a pool,” he said.
“We’re not against the site being redeveloped. We understand it needs to be done as it is an eyesore and has been for years. We just want it to be developed in the right way.
“The proposals by the council are laughable. To create an artificial beach there is daft when there are acres of beach right next to the site.
“Once the council tips concrete in and fills it up, any future possibilities of restoring the pool will be gone. The pool will be lost for ever.
“This campaign isn’t just something off the back of the council’s plans. We’ve been planning something for a while. The time is right to push it.”
He added: “The main thing we feel is that we haven’t been consulted properly about what the council is going to do.
“The feedback we’re getting is that the majority of people, virtually everyone, are saying they would like the pool restored as a pool.
“We understand it is not quite as simple as that, which is why we want to explore all the options.
“Families like to come down to the beaches during the holidays but are sometimes concerned about letting their children or grandchildren swim in the sea because it can be dangerous at times,” said Mr Bell.
“An outdoor pool would give people a safe place to swim.”
Mr Bell, of Cullercoats, admits restoring the pool to its original use would be more expensive than the £1m estimated for the council’s current plans, but said he hoped funding could be found. Mrs Arkley does not share his optimism, however.
She said: “I understand why there is fondness for the former outdoor pool. However, it is simply not commercially viable to bring it back into use. It would require substantial capital investment, as well as ongoing funding to meet its running costs.
“Last year, we sought expressions of interest from parties interested in developing the site.
“The council did not, however, pursue the process any further in order to assess alternative options for the site.
“You just need to look across the country at other resorts that have had this type of outdoor pool to see how many have had to find a different use for them.
“Regulations regarding water quality and health and safety are far more stringent today than when the pool was decommissioned. Maintaining the required standard would be extremely difficult and costly, particularly as the pool is regularly inundated by seawater.
“And people don’t use these facilities in sufficient numbers, especially when there are alternative indoor facilities nearby like we have in North Tyneside.
“What I’m interested in doing is bringing forward this proposal for a new visitor attraction.
“With this scheme, we have a realistic opportunity to get financial support from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.
“However, we need planning approval for the pool. Otherwise the whole bid will be jeopardised. In the current financial climate, we have an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.”