Long-awaited plans to build two swimming pools in Reading as part of a £40 million project have been given the green light.

A new leisure centre, with a 25 metre, eight-lane competition pool, will replace Rivermead Leisure Complex.

A 25 metre, six-lane community pool and gym will also be built at Palmer Park Stadium.

Both projects were approved by the Reading Borough Council’s Planning Applications Committee on Wednesday, March 31.

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The council says construction will begin in the summer and it is aiming to open the new pools in “early 2023”. Both will be run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).

Rivermead Leisure Complex, which opened in 1988, will be demolished after the new two-storey leisure centre is built.

It will contain a competition pool with moveable floor and 250 spectator seats, a diving pool, a six-court sports hall, a 120-station gym, cafe and soft play area.

Cllr Jo Lovelock (Labour) said: “I’m really pleased we’re now able to replace it.

“I think the building itself is a vast improvement on the existing building and it will serve Reading well.”

Reading Chronicle: An artist's impression of the new leisure centre that will be built at Palmer Park An artist's impression of the new leisure centre that will be built at Palmer Park

At Palmer Park, the stadium will be extended, so a community pool, 100-station gym, cafe and activity zone for children can be built.

The car park will also be extended, so a total of 131 spaces are provided.

When the council closed Arthur Hill Swimming Pool in 2016, it was aiming to open a replacement pool at Palmer Park within four years.

Cllr Tony Page (Labour) said this pool is not a replacement for Arthur Hill, it is “a major enhancement”.

“It offers far, far more than was ever available at Arthur Hill, which in its last few years was a run down and not fit for purpose facility,” he said.

“This is a bit late because of austerity and other things. But this is the council delivering on its long-standing promises and commitments to Reading, so let’s all crack on.

“I just very hope at the end of all this, GLL are still left standing and able to deliver.”

Last August, the council provided GLL with a £410,000 bailout to ensure it could continue to running Rivermead during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Cllr John Ennis (Labour) said: “When you look at the planning application, it has a vision to create one of the best hubs of sport and leisure in the south, with a running track, modern facilities and a brand-new swimming pool, not a tired and small one that is past its sell-by date.”

He added: “We need to push on and build this.”