Progress on Reading’s Two New Swimming Pools

Palmer Community Pool concept image
Palmer Community Pool concept image












PROGRESS on major Council plans to build two new swimming pools in Reading will be presented at the next meeting of Policy Committee on October 31st.

The update report provides an outline timetable for the procurement and delivery of modern new leisure and swimming facilities at both Palmer Park and land at Rivermead by 2020. These will replace ageing and expensive-to-run facilities at Central Pool and Arthur Hill.

A timetable shows the award for the leisure contract would be in place by early 2018, construction would begin in the summer of 2018 and the two new pools would be open for public use early in 2020.

Plans for two new pools were first announced by Reading Borough Council in November last year as the Council moves to provide modern and much-improved facilities for swimmers and other pool and leisure users in the town.

The Council this week confirmed the closure of Arthur Hill pool in east Reading from December 19th. The cost of bringing the building up to an acceptable standard, combined with estimated running costs over the next 3 years, amounts to more than £1 million. A capital receipt for the sale of the site will contribute to modern new swimming facilities at Palmer Park.

The new 6-lane 25-metre community pool would be physically linked to existing leisure facilities in Palmer Park, creating a modern new multi sports hub for the east of the borough. An early indicative artist’s impression of what the new facility could look like is included in the Policy Committee report at  (Item 11)

At the same time the Policy report outlines the plans to replace Central Pool with a new competition pool at the Rivermead site. The Council’s minimum specification for this is a modern 8 lane 25 metre competition standard pool. Unlike any other pool in Berkshire, the proposal is also to include diving provision at the new facility, as well as hosting a range of indoor sports.

The existing leisure facilities and activities held at Rivermead, set against the backdrop of the River Thames and adjoining parkland, provide a unique opportunity to develop a principal recreational and leisure destination for Reading,   offering a wide range of formal and informal facilities.  The provision of a new competition pool and additional ‘dry-side’ facilities would play a key part in fulfilling this vision for the Rivermead area.

The proposals for both the new pools are subject to Planning Permission.

In order to minimise costs and drive the best possible value for money, both the Palmer Park and new Rivermead sports facilities would be delivered and managed by a development partner specialising in leisure provision.  The Council has appointed a dedicated project manager and a leisure specialist consultancy to support and advise on the procurement process. The plan is to award a contract that encompasses the design, build, operation and management of the facilities.

Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said: “The publication this week of a definitive timetable clearly illustrates this Council’s commitment to delivering two new purpose built swimming pools for Reading. In the case of Palmer Park, a 6 lane community pool would be added to existing leisure facilities creating a modern new multi-sports facility for east Reading. On land at Rivermead, a brand new competition pool will be provided and this will be the only facility in Berkshire that will include dedicated diving provision, as well as a range of other indoor sports on site.

“At a time of unprecedented Government cuts to our budget, building two new pools is ambitious and a major commitment on the part of the Council, but we feel very strongly that people have the right to expect modern new sports facilities. The new facilities will be delivered by a development partner who will be identified through a detailed procurement process and that partner will also be responsible for the day to day management of the sites.

“The Council this week had to take the very difficult decision to close Arthur Hill pool, which was being subsidised by more than £100,000 a year. Realistically only a huge investment would have allowed it to remain open and the budget challenge we face means we are no longer in a position to invest money in ageing facilities which would only have a limited lifespan. Instead, we are choosing to invest in modern new sports facilities which residents will be able to use for many years to come.

“The temporary pool which will open at Rivermead will help plug the gap pending the opening of the two new pools. Temporary pools of this kind are of a high standard and have successfully been used in other parts of the country.”

Reading Borough Council has made more than £65 million of savings since 2011 as a result of Government cuts and increased demands on services. Latest estimates are that more than £41 million worthy of savings still need to be made by 2020.


Notes for editors

Useful background reports:

The report to Reading Borough Council’s Policy Committee on November 30th outlines the original proposals and can be found at (Item 13)

The Arthur Hill report to Council on October 18th can be found at:  (Item 9)


Victoria Nickless

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