Peterborough City Council: Cabinet 'recommended to agree to the closure of the hydrotherapy pool'

For the council to re-open the pool, the local authority said it would cost around £280,000.

Friday, 1st July 2022, 4:58 pm
Updated Friday, 1st July 2022, 5:20 pm

Peterborough City Council‘s cabinet members are ‘recommended to agree to the closure’ of St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool at their meeting on Monday 11 July.

The move has been described as “a really difficult situation” after the council estimates the costs of re-opening the facility would cost them about £280,000.

However, the local authority says ‘talks are ongoing’ with a private care home, which has a hydrotherapy pool on site, and Dr Neil Modha from Thistlemoor Medical Practice, who is developing plans for a new hydrotherapy pool.

The pool has been closed since the COVID pandemic, and now looks to remain shut, despite campaigners calling for it to be saved.

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Councillor Steve Allen, Cabinet Member for communication, culture and communities, said: “This is a really difficult situation and of course we wish that we could please everyone.

“However, we have to make a decision which is in the best interests of everyone in our city and not just those who want to access hydrotherapy provision at St George’s.

"For the council to re-open the pool it would cost around £280,000 and to sell it would make us a profit, which would be negligible and not within our best interests financially when you consider the future need for special educational need school places.”

Following a motion passed at the Annual Council meeting in May, the cabinet was tasked with urgently examining all possible options for re-opening the hydrotherapy pool, either permanently or temporarily, and to report back on progress to the next available meeting of Full Council.

Officers of the council say they have worked with cabinet members ‘to examine all possible options to re-open the pool’ and the findings will be presented at the Cabinet meeting.

‘Urgent places’ needed for special school

Members will hear that a review of the costs which are necessary to re-open the pool has revealed that it will cost £278,886 based on today’s rates – higher than the previous estimate of between £140,000 and £200,000.

In addition, with the number of children on Education, Health and Care Plans in Peterborough growing by 44% since 2021, there is a need for additional special educational needs school places in the city.

Heltwate Special School, which shares the site with the pool, has confirmed its urgent need for extra spaces and a corresponding need for additional outdoor space and parking to allow the school to operate effectively with increased numbers of children.

‘Continue to find an alternative way’

Councillor Steve Allen added: “The number of children in our city requiring a special needs school place is increasing overall but - amongst this is a growing number with severe learning difficulties - and we have a duty to those children to meet that demand.

"We must also remember that hydrotherapy is not a statutory council service and such services in other parts of the country are either provided by the NHS or privately.

“If the decision is made to not re-open the pool, we will continue to work with our partners to find an alternative way to provide hydrotherapy services in Peterborough.”

The report also re-examined the option of selling to a third party, but concluded that it did not make ‘good financial sense’ for the council to sell the pool for £105,000 and spend £100,000 in the process to get the pool sale-ready.

Members were also invited by the Council Leader to suggest alternative ideas for exploration by officers as part of the process undertaken since the council motion was passed. A number of suggestions were put forward, including renegotiation with the original buyer or the opportunity to lease the pool to him. Officers investigated each of the suggestions thoroughly and the authority says ‘the report details why each is not recommended’.

Instead, the report highlights other hydrotherapy pools are available to use within an hour’s radius.

As a result, cabinet members are recommended to agree to the closure of the hydrotherapy pool.

Following the meeting of Cabinet on 11 July, the findings will be reported back to members at the next Full Council meeting on 27 July.