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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Action group aims to safeguard future of Wigton pool

An action group is being formed to ensure that the reopening of Wigton’s swimming pool is not short-lived.

Wigton pool photo
Wigton pool users, from left, Jim Corrigan, Colin Smithson and Bob Southward

Campaigners are delighted that a deal has been agreed with Cumbria County Council to open the pool in about three weeks’ time.

It has been closed since September after being pinpointed as the possible source of a pollution leak that killed 400 fish in a nearby gill.

But now Lord Roger Liddle, county councillor for Wigton, says permission has been granted by the Environment Agency to reopen the pool.

The decision was announced by David Southward, the county council’s cabinet member for economic development and property.

Campaigner Colin Smithson organised a petition to reopen the pool, gaining more than 1,600 signatures.

He said: “We are absolutely delighted – it’s very good news. I’m sure it came about because of the protest because the county council officer had decided to close it with the first possible excuse.

“We have got to form a trust to run it and we are seeking support.”

Wigton town councillor Alan Pitcher is temporary chairman of the trust formed to run the pool, and posters will be put up to try and get more people involved.

He announced on Facebook that money for the running of the pool is likely to run out by March 2015.

Mr Pitcher said: “We’re going to form a trust of people who can contribute both knowledge and experience, and then see how we can raise funds and awareness with the aim that in time, we will take the pool over and run it.

“I’m pleased the pool can reopen and it’s there for the community to use. It’s a shame so many people are missing out now.”

Lord Liddle had admitted to being concerned that money shortages currently affecting the county council may have proved a stumbling block.

The authority’s annual operating subsidy to Wigton pool is between £95,000 to £100,000 a year, which equates to 40 per cent of the council’s total swimming pool budget.

And he praised the community for their efforts to get the facility reopened.

Lord Liddle said: “The county decision gives the Wigton community a fighting chance to save swimming in the town.

“The council really is up against it financially, with a further £88m of cuts to be found from 2014. Wigton is to be congratulated on the strength of the local campaign to save the pool.

“The existing pool will only survive, or a new pool be built, if local people fully back the trust that is now to be set up.

“I have pledged to put my heart and soul into helping to raise money for the pool’s future.”

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