Fight for new Kettering swimming pool goes on with town left as 'poor relation'
Campaigners are continuing their fight to build a new pool in the town
Kettering will continue to be the poor relation for swimming in north Northamptonshire unless a new pool is built, campaigners have warned.
The current London Road pool was opened in 1984 and is now 37-years-old - just shy of the average pool lifespan of 38 years - and has needed costly investment in recent years.
Since the turn of the century shiny new pools have been built in Corby, Wellingborough and beyond, but desperate calls for a new pool in Kettering have come to nothing.
The former Kettering Borough Council (KBC) agreed to look into the possibility of one in 2016, but carried out half-hearted research and then disbanded a research group in 2019, ruling out committing to building one and leaving any move to the new North Northamptonshire Council (NNC).
Last year a strategy published by KBC said new improved swimming facilities and a larger pool needed to be high on the agenda for NNC - but to date any hopes of a new pool for the town are still stalled.
Mike Annable, chairman of Kettering Amateur Swimming Club, said: "For several years Kettering Borough Council deferred any decision around the future of Kettering Swimming Pool to the new unitary authority.
"North Northamptonshire Council will consider the region as a whole and with 50m pools in Corby and Oundle then, on face value, North Northants is well-served for swimming.
"Kettering Swimming Pool is a poor relation when compared to the offer in neighbouring towns.
"Local swimmers are faced with a journey to Corby, Wellingborough, East Northants or Market Harborough and beyond to access good quality facilities. Is it too much to ask that the council, without a sports facilities strategy of its own, delivers on the recommendations of KBC's strategy developed just a year ago?"
In 2017 the Kettering pool was forced to close for two months after a piece of ceiling panelling fell into the water.
When they decided not to progress hopes of building a new pool, KBC leaders instead decided to pump £140,000 into the London Road site.
NNC say they have made several improvements to the current pool and will consider the future provision of all leisure facilities in the north of the county.
A North Northamptonshire Council spokesman said: “We have recently invested in both public facing areas and behind the scenes to improve the quality of Kettering pool and facilities, with new style changing rooms, accessible facilities, pool repairs, ventilation improvements and new showers along with a new heating and filtration system to improve water quality. A capital works programme is under way for the roof repairs.
“Consideration on the future provision of all leisure facilities in north Northamptonshire will be undertaken with planning colleagues as a part of the plan-making process.
“This will take into account the policies published last year by Kettering Borough Council on the sport facility strategy.”
A 2018 assessment found that the water space for swimming in Kettering was just 4.6 sq m per 1,000 people.
This was far less than its neighbouring areas - 15.7 sq m per 1,000 people in Corby, 14 sq m per 1,000 people in East Northants and 12.7 sq m per 1,000 people in Wellingborough (2016).
A Swim England report titled 'Decade of Decline' warned there would be a 'huge' decline in available water space unless there is adequate investment into new pools.
Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said: "Swimming is a unique activity in that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Pools are valuable hubs of the local community, helping people of all ages to lead healthier, happier lives, saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year as well as being the place where millions of people will learn a skill that could one day save their life.
"We know that each 25m pool can generate £7.2m in community savings. Without adequate investment into the new pools the country needs, we are forecasting a huge decline in available water space by the end of the decade."
Calls for a new pool have been backed by Cllr Anne Lee (Windmill), Kettering's only Labour representative on North Northamptonshire Council
She says one should be built even if it is loss-making because of the health and social benefits it would bring.
She said: "It's time to stand up for Kettering and fight for a new pool."