REVEALED: Pools to shut within weeks, despite community backlash

Protesters gather at Castleford swimming pool.
Protesters gather at Castleford swimming pool.

The closure of Knottingley Sports Centre and Castleford Swimming Pool will go ahead as planned, despite backlash from the community.

Wakefield Council has announced today that it will move forward with proposals to shut the sites down, ahead of the development of a new £14.8m leisure centre in Pontefract Park.

Both facilities will remain open for three more weeks before they are closed for good on Friday, February 3.

Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport said: “We fully understand there will be some disappointment about the closures.

“Ideally, we would have liked to keep all the existing facilities open until the new leisure centre is built. However, this is now impossible because of the relentless cuts to our budget.

“The government has wiped over £146m off the budget already and another £24m will be found in 2017/18. With no end in sight to the government cuts, we are having to make very difficult decisions, like this.”

Protesters gather at Castleford swimming pool.

Protesters gather at Castleford swimming pool.

The council first announced the cost-cutting closures in September, before holding an eight-week consultation on the plans.

More than 2,200 people signed a petition to keep Castleford Pool open, whilst Knottingley Swimming Club fronted a campaign, backed by more than 2,000 people, to save the town’s sports centre.

Angry campaigners protested against the plans, raising concerns including the time and cost of travelling to Pontefract to access facilities and the amount of pool and leisure space available.

But the council said keeping the Knottingley site, built in 1969, and Castleford pool, built in 1983, open “in their current dilapidated state” was costing £750k per year.

Today, the authority has pledged a £1m capital funding boost to support regeneration projects in both towns, following the leisure centre closures.

Coun Shaw said: “We remain fully committed to Knottingley and Castleford which is why we are investing an additional £1m capital funding across both towns to support their regeneration, and will be working with community groups to identify what is needed.”

Design work on the new leisure centre will now get underway and once complete, a planning application will be drawn up.

The facility, which will include a ten-lane swimming pool, gym and exercise studios and a climbing activity, will replace both the Knottingley and Castleford leisure facilities as well as the current Pontefract Pool, which is expected to close around the time the new centre is built.

Coun Shaw said: “People’s comments and views are now an integral part of the project and as we progress to the next stage we will make sure our design and planning processes address the challenges that have been raised.

“The council remains confident that the new multi-purpose leisure and well-being centre will not only meet the current needs of the Five Towns but also its future needs.”

A new timetable for the council’s remaining leisure facilities has been drawn up and is available at www.wakefield.gov.uk