Newcastle council considers splashing out on Lambton pool

Turning Lambton pool into a year-round swim centre is back on the agenda after Newcastle City Council agreed to examine options for its reburbishment.

Ward 3 councillor Andrea Rufo (Ind) asked council officers on Tuesday night to look into replacing the existing pools at Lambton and covering and heating a 25-metre pool so it can open in winter.

He also asked them to investigate new heating systems, pool surrounds, grandstands, parking and a gymnasium and describe potential funding options.

Newcastle, unlike neighbouring council areas, does not have a council-owned, year-round swim centre. 

Lambton is closed five months a year. 

Labor councillors, led by now deputy mayor Declan Clausen, called in 2015 for a feasibility study into upgrading the pool, which attracts 190,000 visits a year, five times more than any other pool in the council area.

Ratepayers ranked pool upgrades as their fifth priority when the council surveyed their needs as part of its application for a special rate variation in 2013.

The top four on that list were revitalising Hunter Street, upgrading coastal footpaths and beach access, Blackbutt Reserve improvements and better cycleways.

Some of those priorities are well under way, and Cr Rufo told the Herald it was now time to look at the city’s pools, including Lambton.

“It’s the oldest inland pool we have, out of the five of them. It’s 54 years old. The infrastructure is tired. You’ve got water leaks,” he said.

“There was a report issued in 2007 . . . and it said, ‘We need to do something about Lambton pool.’ Now we’re in 2017, 10 years later, and nothing’s been done.

“The work on the other items is well under way, which is fantastic, so what I’m asking is for council to simply have a look at what has to be done, cost it, then let’s talk about it.”

Lake Macquarie has three council pools, Charlestown, Toronto and West Wallsend, which are heated and open all year. Maitland’s 25-metre pool is also heated and open in winter.     

“Lambton pool is one of the most visited of all the inland pools. Hundreds of thousands of people a year,” Cr John Church (Ind) said.

“I think there’s the view that most of the aquatic centres that our neighbour councils are doing are 12-month. They’ve got an indoor component as well as an outdoor component.

“We look at our neighbour councils and their aquatic centres, and I think we’re just looking a bit tired, like the country cousin.

“We’re paying extra rates now. The community said yes to maintaining the rate increase, so we’re saying, ‘Let’s see that resulting in direct infrastructure spending, such as Lambton pool.’”

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