An extra £2 million of spending on new pools in Rivermead and Palmer Park has been approved.

The new leisure facilities were expected to cost £36 million but will now cost more than £38 million, with Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) full council approving the increased costs on Tuesday, June 8, at the town hall.

The new leisure centres will include two new 25m pools which will replace the closed Central and Arthur Hill pools.

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The new Palmer Park pool and leisure centre is expected to open in autumn 2022, while the replacement Rivermead Leisure Centre is scheduled to open in spring 2023.

Reading Chronicle: PICTURED: Designs of the new Rivermead Leisure ComplexPICTURED: Designs of the new Rivermead Leisure Complex

Reading Chronicle: PICTURED: Design of the new Palmer Park leisure centrePICTURED: Design of the new Palmer Park leisure centre

Labour councillor Graeme Hoskin, who is lead member for Sport, Health and Wellbeing, said: “We have made promise to the people of Reading, we have laid out what we are going to deliver and this gives us the possibility to do this.

“We have faced real challenges but I think this town has got a fantastic future ahead of it.

“This council is committed to investing in the town and this is one element of that.

“It is a really exciting chapter for this town.”

Palmer Park will have a 25m, six-lane community pool, 100-station gym with three studios, activity zone for children with party rooms, and a new café and information hub.

The new Rivermead leisure centre will have a 25m eight-lane competition pool, splash pad, diving pool and 25m five-lane club/swim lesson pool (the demountable pool).

Green councillor Rob White said: “Isn’t it amazing how much money you can spend and still not get a 50m pool in Reading.

“The Green Party would have invested the small amounts needed to keep Arthur Hill open until the new pool was built.

“There has been no public swimming provision in east Reading for almost five years. That is a generation of kids who may not have learnt to swim.

“The people of east Reading need the swimming provision that the council took from them. We hope the money will be well spent.”

He also asked Labour councillors to apologise to “Reading’s children who have been unable to learn to swim”.

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Leader of the council Jason Brock rejected the idea of keeping Arthur Hill open, saying: “Arthur Hill was not fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

He added: “It is an extraordinary opportunity for the town. This will deliver the best leisure facilities that Reading has ever had.”

And Cllr Hoskin said swimming rates had actually gone up since Arthur Hill and Central Pool closed, rejecting the claim the closure of pools had stopped kids from learning to swim.

Also criticising the council, Lib Dem councillor Ricky Duveen said his party’s ideas for improving tree planting rates earlier this year were rejected with the comment “money doesn’t grow on trees” but £2 million has “suddenly appeared” for more spending on the leisure centres.

But Cllr Brock said Cllr Duveen’s suggestions were “spending without a plan”.

And Cllr Hoskin said the investment in leisure facilities “will lead to income that pays for itself in the future”.

Conservative councillor Simon Robinson said the town “desperately needs new leisure facilities” and called the additional sums needed for the new pools “regrettable” but said his political group understand the costs have “risen through unforeseen circumstances”.