Call for replacement pool in financial plan

Councillor Bob Spink is calling for a replacement Forfar pool to be placed on Angus Council's finacial plan.
Councillor Bob Spink is calling for a replacement Forfar pool to be placed on Angus Council's finacial plan.

CALLS for a replacement swimming pool for Forfar to be put on the agenda have resurfaced.

Independent Councillor Bob Spink has announced a replacement pool for Forfar should be placed on the council’s financial plan as a matter of urgency.

The Arbroath member has followed the saga of Forfar’s pool, which was the centre of low-key centenary celebrations last year, with interest in light of the building of a new pool adjacent to the Montrose Sports Centre.

He has now called for the surplus saving of £2.098m made on the budgeted estimated cost of £10m of the new Montrose pool to be ring-fenced immediately for urgent works on the other pools of Angus, including Forfar where he states a ‘risk of catastrophic failure’ was identified three years ago.

Mr Spink contacted the Dispatch and Herald to say: “I thought your readers may be interested to know the facts I have uncovered upon investigating the status of the swimming pools of Angus following the commencement of new pool works at Montrose, and where Forfar comes out much the worst.

“A replacement swimming for Forfar should be placed asap on the council’s financial plan, even if only under ‘future years’ heading, but which will start the process.”

As well as calling for the savings to be ring-fenced, Mr Spink has requested a new up-to-date report should be brought forward following the same criteria as an earlier report of January, 2008, to allow councillors to re-assess the position across the burghs.

Councillor Spink told the Dispatch and Herald: “During debate at the recent council budget meeting I expressed my disappointment that there are no plans in place to replace the ancient swimming pool at Forfar or indeed to implement the urgent works identified three years ago to maintain all the swimming pools within the Angus estate.

“It was interesting to hear that when the tenders were confirmed, financing in place, and works given the go ahead for the new multi-million swimming pool in Montrose that a Forfar councillor, Colin Brown, expressed his support and expectations that “Forfar is next in line for a new pool and he looks forward very much to that”. With respect I hope he is prepared to wait for quite a while for I have confirmation from the Head of Finance that, and I quote, “the current Financial Plan excludes any mention of a replacement for Forfar Pool – it’s not even in ‘Later Years”. How far away is that?

“Even more concerning is when I refer to council report 72/08 entitled ‘Swimming Pool Provision Throughout Angus’ dated January 17, 2008, and asked the relevant questions of the Head of Finance for comparison, his responses confirmed my fears and put the question in my mind that this may be the hidden price of the new Montrose Swimming Pool.

Councillor Spink referred back to report 72/08, a joint report by the Director of Neighbourhood Services and the Director of Corporate Services which was brought to committee and which he remembers well.

He continued: “They were instructed to bring forward a comprehensive report on all the swimming pools in Angus for which the council is responsible. They were to report on:-

a) the current age and condition of the buildings;

b) the options available to the council for their replacement or upgrading

c) determine a funding package to allow the preparation of this strategy.

“Within that report it said “due to the various elements identified for both Montrose and Forfar Swimming Pools both facilities are at risk of catastrophic failure.”

A 10 year estimated cost programme was put forward to address all the identified issues and on-going maintenance with Councillor Spink claiming Forfar has come out much worse, with only 14% of the identified estimated works carried out.

He added: “This implies that steps to prevent the risk of ‘catastrophic failure’ have not been taken and there surely must be consequences from that.”

He added Arbroath, Monifieth and Brechin fared little better, with only Carnoustie and Webster’s in Kirriemuir meeting or surpassing the estimated maintenance figures.

He concluded: “The only real winner is Montrose where a new pool is under-way. With the cost of that project coming in £2.098m below the estimated cost, it seems sensible that some or all of this saved money should be allocated immediately and ring-fenced to the remaining Angus pools whose standard is being allowed to deteriorate.

“At the very least a new report should be brought forward following the same criteria as Report 72/08, showing the up-to-date status of the Angus pools.”

A spokesperson for Angus Council said: “We have no plans at present to replace Forfar Swimming Pool but we continue to maintain the facility. We undertook improvement works at the pool last year which included tiling, painting of doors and refurbishment or replacement of door hinges, as well as painting of the pool tank.”

When asked to comment on the current situation Councillor Colin Brown, vice-convener of Neighbourhood Services reiterated his commitment to a new pool in Forfar, which is a departmental priority.

He said: “I accept there is not money to do everything all at once, but look forward to the day when the pool at Forfar becomes a reality. In the interim, any necessary work will be carried out to ensure the safety of the swimmers in Forfar.”