Peterborough council responds to anger over filled in hydro pool - as classroom plans are submitted

“The council cannot fund hydrotherapy provision, especially when in every other part of the country this service is funded largely by private organisations or the NHS."
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Peterborough City Council have responded to anger after images of the St George’s Hydrotherapy pool being destroyed were released – as plans for the classrooms set to replace the facility have been revealed.

Former users of the hydrotherapy pool said they were shocked to see the photos of the pool filled with rubble, with damage to the much loved site.

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They had previously spoken out over the site being left ‘derelict,’ asking why it could not have been left open, rather than being empty.

The St George's Pool, filled with rubbleThe St George's Pool, filled with rubble
The St George's Pool, filled with rubble

Karen Oldale, St George's Friends and Service Users' Lead told the Peterborough Telegraph: “When I saw the photos of the hydrotherapy pool destroyed and left filled with rubble, I was very shocked and then angry. I still am. And frustrated. Other pool users who have seen the pictures felt similarly. Some described it as devastating and said after the initial shock they sat and cried.”

Councillor John Fox added: “So many people benefitted from the treatment yet this administration decided it wasn't prepared to invest in either their personal well-being or a recovery facility of any kind. It has been systematically destroyed.”

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Pictured: Inside the abandoned former Peterborough hydrotherapy pool now filled ...

Council say decommissioning work at pool began immediately after decision to close was made

However, the council has said decommissioning work has been carried out at the pool since the decision was made to close it, ahead of it being transformed into a classroom for the Heltwate School, and the demolition work has been part of that process.

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A spokesperson for the council said: “Cabinet made the decision last July to permanently close the hydrotherapy pool, and it was also debated by Full Council. Following this decision, we immediately began decommissioning the site. This has been a gradual process and in recent weeks we have started the demolition process.

"Plans continue to be developed by external parties to provide hydrotherapy provision in the city and of course we are supportive of this. At a time when there are huge pressures on our budget, for example in the area of children's social care, the council cannot fund hydrotherapy provision, especially when in every other part of the country this service is funded largely by private organisations or the NHS."

The pool has not been used since the COVID pandemic. It was announced last year the pool would remain closed – despite a deal being discussed to sell it to local businessman, Ranjith Mahamani, who had plans to renovate it and bring it back to life. The council said it would cost £278,886 to bring it back to use, and pulled out of negotiations.

Report says ‘adequate alternatives exist locally’

Plans have now been submitted to turn the old site into a classroom for nearby special school Heltwate.

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The plans say ‘Having reviewed the available literature and planning policy maps, it is believed that the proposal/site.... Is not odds with Planning Policy LP30: Culture, Leisure, Tourism and Community Facilities. PCC itself decided to close the pool (effectively making to redundant and surplus to requirement), adequate alternatives exist locally.’

However, the only alternative facility listed in the report is Lime Academy in Orton, where the council ran hydrotherapy pool services following the closure of St George’s. The trial at Lime Academy ended earlier this year, following a low demand for the services – users had hit out at the cost of sessions making it impossible to attend.

The Peterborough Telegraph has asked the City Council what ‘adequate alternatives exist locally.’

What the plans say will happen to St George’s

The plans say: “It is proposed to utilise the redundant on-site hydrotherapy pool area of the school for conversion, offering much a needed additional special needs teaching space and supporting safe outdoor spaces.”

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The application adds: “The old pool surround will be removed and the basin infilled to produce a generous classroom space with store and calm room. The remaining changing rooms etc. will be adapted provide toilets, hygiene room, meeting/group/staff rooms. The old entrance lobby will become a breakout area for the older students, with a secure external door.”

The plans also talk about works being carried out to crate playgrounds for children, and car parks for staff, outside the old pool building.

The report says: “The existing outside area of mainly uneven asphalt will be repaired and resurfaced, while most of the area will be enjoyed by the children in the form of fenced-off play areas, there is space enough for a small but much needed staff carpark. A new fenced and netted ballcourt will be formed with the fencing lines of the site being revised around it accordingly. Two new canopies will be installed to ensure the external spaces can be in part used in all weather.”

Thistlemoor Medical Centre plans

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The proposal was first announced in April last year, following the announcement that St George’s would be closed. Plans were initially submitted last year, before they were withdrawn. Dr Neil Modha, who is behind the plans, said they needed to be redrawn, after consultation with hydro pool users.

The new plans have the 8m x 4m hydro pool on the ground floor, with other therapy services offered throughout the three floor building.

Dr Modha initially said the site, to be built next to the current GP practice on Lincoln Road, would cost £2m, and it was hoped building work would have started this year – but it is not known when construction will now begin.

To see the plans for St Georges, search for 23/01067/R3FUL on the council’s planning website