Plans for a £17million leisure centre in Knaresborough have been unanimously approved by councillors in what will mark the town centre’s biggest building project in decades.
Harrogate Borough Council has today passed its own plans for the new facility to be built over a play area at Fysche Field before the existing Knaresborough Pool just metres away is demolished to make way for a larger car park and new play equipment.
The new leisure centre will have a six-lane pool and exercise studios, and has been hailed by the council as a “modern and fit-for-purpose” facility for the town’s growing population.
It could be built by the end of 2023 and will also be powered by air source heat pumps and solar panels.
However, some concerns have been raised over the environmental impact of demolishing a large building to replace it with another.
Bill Rigby, chairman of Knaresborough Civic Society, told today’s planning committee meeting that the project should be scrapped in favour of rival proposals for a major upgrade of the existing pool.
He said: “Rejecting an extension in favour of a new build frustrates the nation’s and district’s own attempts to meet the challenge of a climate emergency.
“We are at a pivotal moment in our history as a community, nation and citizens of the world.
“The proposal fails to respond appropriately at all of these levels.”
Mr Rigby also criticised a council-run survey on where to build the new leisure centre as “flawed” and added residents were never asked if they believed there was a need for it at all.
But Jonathan Dunk, chief development officer at the council, described the 30-year-old Knaresborough Pool as “at the end of its working life” and said more swimming space is needed.
He said: “We need to renew rather than refurbish the existing facility because it is old and there is inadequate water space.
“We also want to upgrade to make the most of the energy performance of the new building.
“We have chosen to invest more money and develop to a higher, excellent standard because addressing low-carbon is a high priority for the council.”
Today’s vote of approval comes after the council confirmed the project budget had increased from £13million to £17million due to increased material and labour costs, and extra spending on safety equipment.
All nine members of the planning committee voted in favour of the project which was described as a “wise investment” for the town.
Knaresborough mayor councillor Christine Willoughby said: “I’m very pleased to support this new facility.
“This is the perfect site as I have always felt the pool needs to be in the centre of Knaresborough.
“In a town with a river, it is really important that our children learn to swim.
“We have had too many fatalities in the river over the years.”
Other locations previously considered for the leisure centre included Knaresborough House, Hay-a-Park, Conyngham Hall and a plot of land at Halfpenny Lane.
Today’s decision will now be followed by a cabinet meeting on Wednesday when councillors will be asked to approve a £28million contract for Bristol-based firm Alliance Leisure to build the new leisure centre at Fysche Field and separate plans for the Harrogate Hydro.
The proposals for a two-storey extension of the Hydro were approved in October 2021 and include demolishing the existing entrance and replacing it with a larger cafe and reception area, as well as a new fitness suite.