An historic swimming pool is set to become key worker housing after councillors backed the controversial plan last night.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) voted to transform Arthur Hill into housing for doctors, social workers, nurses and police officers despite strong opposition.

The locally listed front of the building will be retained and 15 new flats at a cost of £4.55 million could be available for rent as soon as spring 2022.

Peter Burt, of the Arthur Hill campaign, called for a consultation with the community and presented a petition signed by more than 1,800 people.

He said affordable housing is needed in Reading but so is leisure and “this is not the only choice”.

Mr Burt said the campaign will hold its own consultation if the council does not.

But councillor Jason Brock, leader of RBC, said there was consultation with the public when Arthur Hill was closed.

He said the council will deliver a pool at Palmer Park and that is “incompatible” with keeping a pool at Arthur Hill.

Councillor Simon Robinson (Conservative), said plans for a swimming pool at Palmer Park were talked about 30 years ago and later promises were made that a new pool would be built in 2021 “which is slipping away as well”.

Councillor Ricky Duveen said: “The decision to close Arthur Hill pool has turned out to be pre-emptive and over eager.

“For five or six years residents will be without a pool. The residents of east Reading are the ones that have lost their facility.

RBC has committed to providing a new 25m pool at nearby Palmer Park.

The Lib Dem councillor said he was worried how long the Palmer Park pool will take to build and concerned about the location of the key worker housing, “going onto the worst polluted area of Reading”.

Arthur Hill was closed in December 2016 after RBC said repairs had become too costly.

The council had previously planned to sell the pool for housing, accepting a bid from One of A Kind Developments in July 2018, but the sale fell through a year later.

Green Party councillor Rob White said: “We don’t think Arthur Hill should have been closed and think the council should be working with the community to reopen it.”

Councillors Robinson, Duveen and White all called for the plans to be voted on after “give the people a chance to say what they want” but the council pushed ahead with plans Cllr Brock said he was “proud” of.

The Policy committee approved the appropriation of the site into the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) with three councillors opposing it: Cllrs Robinson, White and Duveen.

The Conservative councillors at the meeting were not in agreement however, with Cllr Jeanette Skeats voting for the proposal.