Politicians awaiting report from consultants on Rock Pool repairs

Politicians awaiting report from consultants on Rock Pool repairs

15 September 2021

A MAJOR report on the detailed cost of repairing Newcastle’s crumbling Rock Pool is still not available for local politicians to study, it has been confirmed.

The consultants’ report was expected to be with Newry, Mourne and Down Council in July, but over two months later it has yet to be published.

This week, the local authority would only confirm that the report is expected to be with the organisation in “due course” and was unable to provide any definitive timescale.

It is understood that when the report is forwarded to the local authority it will be discussed by the Active and Healthy Communities Committee. However, it has yet to be confirmed if the discussion will take place in public or — as a number of councillors suspect — behind closed doors.

A council spokesman has confirmed to the Recorder that TetraTech were appointed as consultants for the Newcastle Rock Pool investigation.

He explained that the consultants are currently assembling expert reports from various consultant disciplines, including architectural, mechanical, electrical and structural specialisms, to provide overall cost estimates for the options available to the local authority.

The spokesman added: “This final report will be submitted in due course to the Active and Healthy Communities Committee to make a recommendation on the preferred option available to Council and elected members.”

Consultants have been carrying out a microscopic investigation of the structural integrity of the outdoor pool at South Promenade.

Earlier this year, it was suggested that the final repair bill for what is one of the last sea water swimming pools in Ireland could be in the region of £5m. And while this has yet to be confirmed, it is being suggested by some that the scale of the work required could cost several million pounds.

Expected to determine the short and long term futures of the Rock Pool which requires significant investment, the consultants’ report will also be scrutinised by senior council officials given the potential cost of the repairs needed to make the pool safe for users and meet current health and safety regulations.

Over the past few months, consultants have been involved in a painstaking examination of the outdoor seawater pool, examining every inch of the structure to determine the exact cost of bringing it back into public use.

It has been reported that preliminary investigation work at the pool — which opened in the early 1930s — revealed that there are a number of issues which require urgent attention and that considerable costs are involved.

It has previously been reported that the outdoor pool’s concrete structure has extensively degraded, while the filtration system to filter sea water is almost unusable, with seawater pipes so corroded that rust is coming off them and contaminating the water being filtered. 

In addition, the pool is unable to retain water as a result of cracks in the concrete and has been described as “no longer fit-for-purpose”, with one of the most significant concerns for council officials that the pool does not comply with current health and safety standards, with suggestions that a complete rebuild may required.

Once the consultants’ report has been studied by councillors and officers, it is is expected that recommendations will be made to the full council on how to proceed and how the required work will be funded.

The local authority has previously insisted that it remains committed to “exploring all funding opportunities” to assist with financing the repair costs at the outdoor pool, with some money to help finance the work included in the local authority’s current budget. 

But a number of councillors believe that external funding will be required as the organisation may not be in a position to shoulder the full costs involved.

They say they are conscious that in tandem with plans to redevelop the Newcastle Centre in the heart of the resort to provide a new leisure facility, ratepayers must not be burdened with the full cost of this project and the repairs to the outdoor pool.