CAMPAIGNERS were left disappointed after the council rejected a community interest group's proposal to take charge of a project to reopen Arthur Hill Swimming Pool.

Reading Borough Council refused the bid of a 'Right to Challenge' group at a Policy Committee meeting on Monday evening.

The proposal, to reopen Arthur Hill Pool and provide short-term relief until a permanent replacement at Palmer Park is introduced, was met with criticism by council chiefs, who questioned the financial sustainability of the venture.

Newtown Globe Group suggested their bid would be built around a series of charitable funding from organisations, such as Sport England, and by increasing footfall, as well as rates, to make the pool financially sustainable for the council to enter into a deal.

Councillor Paul Gittings, lead member for Culture and Sport, was one of many chiefs to praise the campaigners for their enthusiastic fundraising campaign, but he said the council simply could not back the proposal, as it had failed to meet a number of key requirements, most notably financial sustainability.

He said: "It is with a heavy heart that we make this decision. The extreme cuts to our services have left us with little option but to make significant reductions to the way we operate.

"I believe we would be giving dedicated and hard-working people false hope if we delay this application.

"It is simply not financially justifiable. It is too reliant on grant funding and we know all too well how difficult it is for councils to access these types of funds."

The proposal, to delay the bid and revise an agreement with the council, was rejected after a passionate speech from Green Party leader, Rob White, who pleaded with the chamber to back the campaign and get behind the people of Reading.

Cllr White said: "The stage we are at allows us, very reasonably, to approve the recommendation and provide more time to make adjustments to the original proposal.

"I would like to say a big well done to the community interest group. Many people have worked hard to get the pool open again and they can be proud to have got this far in the process.

"Let's support this proposal, let's vote for the community and let's vote for Arthur Hill."

Councillor Hopper went on to explain how delaying the procurement process would incur a monthly cost and an 18-month process would likely threaten the success of any proposed changes to Arthur Hill, with a new swimming pool at Palmer Park and a demountable pool at Rivermead also in the pipeline.

He added: "We voted to keep the pool open many months ago because we valued its role in the community, however, I am concerned with the cash flow aspect of this bid.

"It takes an extremely long time to access grant funding and my concern is that if we allow them time to modify the application, there will be a cost impact in the meantime."

The council has been approached for comment on how much it would cost to keep Arthur Hill Pool operational during the procurement process and it was confirmed the new pool at Palmer Park is on course to open by 2020.