Is it time to put our ef­forts into a new baths for Hasling­den?

Rossendale Free Press - - The Rossendale Scribbler - Let us know your views by email­ing freep­ress­news@men­media.co.uk.

TWICE in the last two weeks in the Free Press, I’ve read com­ments by peo­ple sug­gest­ing it’s time for a re­think on the fu­ture of Hasling­den Baths.

To many, the big­gest er­ror made by the cur­rent Labour ad­min­is­tra­tion at Rossendale Coun­cil was clos­ing Hasling­den Pool sev­eral years ago.

They cited govern­ment bud­get cuts at the time, but few in Hasling­den have for­got­ten that the money was avail­able to build a new pool in Hasling­den.

The Labour coun­cil chose to in­stead spend that money on buy­ing the Val­ley Cen­tre in Rawten­stall, paving the way for much-needed re­gen­er­a­tion.

Rawten­stall’s gain was most cer­tainly Hasling­den’s loss, and four years on, it feels as though the like­li­hood of the old pool re-open­ing is as far off as it ever was, de­spite the in­cred­i­ble hard work of var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups which the coun­cil says it has been sup­port­ing.

There is, in the­ory, another £100,000 on the ta­ble from the coun­cil to sup­port the com­mu­nity group try­ing to get the pool re-opened, but only if they at least match that money from other sources.

Hind­sight is of course a won­der­ful thing, but given Rossendale Coun­cil had given up on the old build­ing a few years ago, and even got the loan to fund a new pool, per­haps try­ing to keep the old pool go­ing was al­ways go­ing to be an un­re­al­is­tic task.

It’s cer­tainly the view of Annabel Ship­ley, the leader of the Tories on Rossendale Coun­cil, who wrote in her col­umn a fort­night ago: “I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber Coun [Alyson] Barnes say quote ‘There will al­ways be a pool in Hasling­den when I’m on the coun­cil’ un­quote.

“The Con­ser­va­tives be­lieve the time has come to set sen­ti­ment aside as dif­fi­cult as it is, to re­de­velop this brown belt site and with the monies raised from this be­ing ringfenced to make pro­vi­sions for a new pool to be built at the sports cen­tre which will ben­e­fit ev­ery­one in years to come.”

It’s not the first time I’ve seen that quote at­trib­uted to Coun Barnes, as it was quoted by one of the com­mu­nity groups at the time of the pool clo­sure.

But that was four years ago - and surely the chal­lenge for Labour now is to work with the Tories and take their coun­ter­pro­posal se­ri­ously.

Then last week, Chris Brown, a vol­un­teer who was part of the early ef­forts to save the pool, wrote in the Free Press let­ters page that the coun­cil should go back to plan A - ie build a new pool - mak­ing the most of the fact it’s never been cheaper to bor­row money as a coun­cil.

Done right, it could be an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture of the area.

Coun­cils across the coun­try are in­vest­ing in prop­erty to help pro­tect their in­come for the fu­ture.

What could the coun­cil build along­side a pool to pro­vide for the fu­ture of the area?

The de­ci­sion to close Hasling­den pool was a bad one, al­beit with good mo­tives be­hind it.

Labour felt it had to choose be­tween a new pool and spend­ing money to fi­nally solve Rawten­stall’s Val­ley Cen­tre prob­lem.

Four years on, maybe it re­ally is time to look again and work out how the area gets to have its cake and eat it.

The Tory pro­posal is a good start­ing point.

●● De­spite a ster­ling ef­fort by the com­mu­nity Hasling­den Baths re­mains closed. Is it time to scrap the idea of re­open­ing the baths? Be­low: Money for a new pool was di­verted to Rawten­stall

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