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Why hopes of new swimming pool built by University of Cambridge are sinking

Concern has been raised that a swimming pool due to be built by the University of Cambridge may never be constructed.

The university agreed to build the pool as part of a developer contribution required when it was given planning permission for the construction of the North-West Cambridge development, which features Eddington.

Concern has been raised that the University of Cambridge may not build a swimming pool in North-West Cambridge
Concern has been raised that the University of Cambridge may not build a swimming pool in North-West Cambridge

It means the university could have to pay back £600,000, split between Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, if the pool is not built by June this year – seven years after the first home at Eddington was occupied.

City councillor Katie Thornborrow (Labour, Petersfield), pictured, executive councillor for planning, building control and infrastructure, said: “Planning officers are still talking to the university. But the delivery of housing at Eddington was meant to contribute toward the swimming pool. The developer contribution s106 money had to be used within seven years and that is coming up in June.

“If they don’t use the money by June, then they would need to negotiate with the planners about keeping it for a future swimming pool.

“Otherwise, the councils can use the money to go towards other swimming pools. It may be the city decides to help fund improvements to maybe some learner pools but it has to be money has to be for swimming.

“I would be very disappointed if the pool is not built – it would be a blow for the whole city.”

In 2009, students campaigned for a pool to be built as part of a new sports centre in West Cambridge. The pool was intended to be used by the university and wider community.

According to Cllr Thornburrow, the city council would receive £388,000 and South Cambridgeshire District Council would receive £218,000 from the university if the pool is not built.

However, she noted: “Pools use a lot of water and we know water is a problem now and also the heating.

“The running costs are quite significant. The council has made a commitment to get to net zero by 2030 and the university has a commitment to get to net zero by 2043.

“The pool at Parkside is one of our biggest expenses and that is because of how much energy it uses. That is why we are looking to heat it using a ground source heat pump to get off gas. If the university builds a swimming pool, then I would expect they would be looking at how that would be done without using gas.”

A University of Cambridge spokesperson said: “The university does not currently have planning permission for a new pool, and if and when we receive planning permission we will need to take into account an ongoing council review of swimming pool demand and future provision in the wider area.

“In the meantime, the University Sports Centre at West Cambridge and facilities nearby on Wilberforce Road offer a variety of sport and fitness activities.

“The refurbished gym, equipment and additional sports spaces, including junior short tennis and pickleball, are used by groups, athletes, students, staff and community members, with the sports centre open to all, seven days a week.”

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