Council takes biggest step yet towards replacing 113-year-old Ripon Spa Baths

Ripon Spa Baths
Ripon Spa Baths

Harrogate Borough Council has taken its biggest step yet with its plans for a new leisure facility to replace the ageing Ripon Spa Baths.

In 2015, the cabinet agreed to recommence plans for a new swimming pool before employing a professional design team and main contractor in December last year.

The council is currently in the process of undertaking a feasibility study for the project and has today launched a public consultation on the plans.

Ripon residents now have the chance to tell the council what type of activities and classes they would like to see in the new facility.

The proposed new swimming pool will be located adjacent to Ripon Leisure Centre, which will also be upgraded under the plans, on Dallamires Lane.

Coun Stan Lumley, cabinet member for Culture and Sport, explained this would create the first combined wet and dry leisure facility in the district.

He said: “It is important that the community in and around Ripon has access to excellent leisure facilities so that they can lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.

"A new combined leisure centre and swimming pool for Ripon will certainly help achieve this.

“Whilst Ripon Spa Baths has served the community well over the years, there is clearly the need for better, modern, cost effective swimming provision in the city."

The council are hoping to reduce operating costs by integrating the upgraded leisure centre with the new pool; creating a shared reception area and other shared facilities.

With the cost of the new build being paramount to Harrogate Borough Council, it is giving "careful consideration" to the design and and type of facilities provided.

As a result, the consultation aims to gauge what local residents, users and key organisations would like to see delivered at the new facility.

The consultation asks users what swimming pool facilities they would like to see; including swimming and diving lessons, snorkelling, water polo and canoeing.

Residents are also given a range of sport facilities to choose from; including football, netball and gymnastics at the leisure centre.

Coun Lumley explained that the feedback would help the council decided which services and activities would be available in the new facility to meet the needs of the community.

He said: "“The responses from the consultation will be collected, by which time we will have a working group put together, and those views will be included.

"Once a design has been created a further public consultation will be undertaken allowing residents to have the opportunity to comment on the proposed design. I look forward to hearing people’s views.”

The Ripon Spa Baths building is now 113-years-old and, despite being well used, local residents and councillors have complained that the facility is "well beyond its sell by date".

In 2008, the council embarked on the initial stages of designing a new £3.2m facility but these fell through as a result of the economic downturn and councillors unable to agree on a suitable location.

However, in October 2015, Coun Lumley said the council had the financial backing to push forward with the plans and hopes the facility will be developed by December 2019.

While the facade of Ripon Spa Baths will remain under the plans, Coun Lumley said the future of the rest of the site was still to be determined.

He said: "It's a listed building so that will be protected and quite rightly so because it's a fantastic piece of architecture.

"This has been a hot topic of mine since I became a cabinet member and it's been at the top of my agenda.

"But because it clashed with major projects it has been a struggle to get it off the ground. That's why we have employed a professional design team and main contractor to push it forward.

"It's a major investment in the community and it's long overdue. Jack Laugher's achievements in Rio this summer shows what we can achieve when we have the right facilities."