PLANS to convert Arthur Hill Swimming Pool into 15 flats for key workers have been approved.

Reading Borough Council says the one and two bedroom flats will be affordable, as they will all be rented out at 80 per cent of market value.

Campaigners have been calling for the pool to be reopened since it was shut in 2016, but the council’s Planning Applications Committee approved plans to covert the building into a block of flats, during a meeting on January 23.

In 2016, the council said it had become too expensive to run the dilapidated pool, which opened in 1911, and promised to build a replacement in East Reading within four years.

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Cllr John Ennis, lead member for housing, said: “It’s part of the fabric of what we do as a council – build affordable housing for key workers.

“Instead of clapping, we’ve all felt the need to actually support our key workers, such as health workers, teachers and social workers.”

The Labour councillor also said all of the homes will be built to a high standard and the “historical frontage” of the pool will be retained.

Cllr Karen Rowland (Labour) said: “The campaign that had been waged wished to save something that wasn’t salvageable.

“The cost of repairs and everything else led us to look at a new future.”

But Cllr Josh Williams (Green Party) pointed out the council has still not opened a replacement pool in East Reading – more than four years after Arthur Hill Swimming Pool was closed.

The council is hoping plans to build a six-lane community pool at Palmer Park and an eight-lane competition pool at Rivermead will be approved in March.

Cllr Williams said: “The council has proposed to rely on a private company to build the pool. A company called GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited).

“We read at the weekend it is talking about closing swimming pools up and down the country. It’s a company that, sadly, might look very different when we emerge from Covid.”

In August 2020, the council provided GLL with a £410,000 bailout, to ensure the company could continue to run Rivermead during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Williams also said that six of the new flats will be 51.2 sqm, when government guidance states the minimum size should for flats should be 51.5 sqm.

“What a way to thank a hero with very literally the smallest flat the law will allow,” he said.