A NEW modern pool in East Reading is the priority for Reading Borough Council (RBC) despite calls from a national swimming body and local campaigners for a 50m pool in central Reading.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said the proposed 25m Palmer Park pool would be more accessible to the East Reading community than Arthur Hill, or a 50m pool in Rivermead.

However, campaigners have argued that the pool would be very close to Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) new Bulmershe pool.

Cllr Hoskin said: “Our position is that the East Reading community deserves a pool.

“The East Reading community want to see a replacement for the Arthur Hill pool. People that have spoken to me say it is not easy to get to Rivermead.

“We want to have good swimming facilities in local communities.”

A Swim England report, commissioned by RBC, said that not enough consideration has gone into the viability of a 50m pool at Rivermead.

RBC is currently working out the costs of different proposals but cllr Hoskin said the council prefers to invest in modern facilities over what it calls a much move but ageing pool.

RG50 founder Jeremy Muscroft said the campaign group are willing to campaign to gap fund the difference between a 25m and 50m pool.

He added: “We have the chance of a lifetime. It is something we really need to explore.”

Councillor Hoskin said the council would be interested in any contribution to a potential 50m pool.

He said: “I think a 50m pool for Reading would be a fantastic facility but we have suffered big cuts from the government. Anything that helps to make a 50m pool available is something we would be interested in.”

Peter Burt, of the Save Arthur Hill campaign, said refurbishment of the historic pool would cost around £1.5m, while a new 25m pool would cost about £5m.

Cllr Hoskin responded: “Arthur Hill was much loved but ageing and expensive to run. It wasn’t well used, particularly due to a lack of parking. It would be extremely expensive to refurbish.

“People in Reading would love to see modern facilities. A modern pool will be a greater asset.”

A 50m pool at Rivermead, which could be used as two 25m pools, would likely be more than 30 minutes from Palmer Park by bus.

However, the proposed six-lane 25m East Reading pool would be around 20 minutes walk or 15 minutes by bus from WBC’s £14m Bulmershe pool development.