Doubt cast on future of James Stephens pool

The future use of the James Stephens swimming pool building was cast into doubt on Monday evening, as members of the borough council received a briefing on the engineer’s structural report.

The future use of the James Stephens swimming pool building was cast into doubt on Monday evening, as members of the borough council received a briefing on the engineer’s structural report.

Director of services John Mulholland said that there were a number of significant defects to the structure. While they were not insurmountable problems, he said, the cost of dealing with additional as yet unknown mechanical and electrical defects may yet be prohibitive.

A number of local clubs have expressed an interest in using the building as a base in recent times. Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick (LAB) had asked whether it would be possible for these groups to use their own funding to repair it in the event of a lease agreement or transfer. But Mr Mulholland said the local authority had certain safety and maintenance obligations when it came to any such agreement.

“We can’t just let it off – we would have to make sure it’s safe,” he told the members.

“It could be categorised as an asset, but the best solution is to demolish it, if it is to be used.”

Cracks ranging from between 1mm and 10mm have been found in the structure, and the west wall has continued to subside. The report also found that some pipework has been removed or stolen.

Though the defects are significant, the building could be re-used with a number of conditions, including repair, sealing and regular monitoring. However, there are a number of mechanical and electrical problems, which may yet prove extensive. A report on these elements has not yet been undertaken.

The swimming pool building, constructed in the 1970s, has not been used in a number of years. It has been monitored irregularly ever since, and whilst it is of no risk to the public, it cannot meet any current habitation demands.

“We considered it for office use at one stage, but the defects are so significant that we are not able to use it for that,” said city manager Joe Crockett.

“It would mean demolition. The costs are too significant to repair it.”

Cllr Joe Reidy asked that, given the new developments, the debate on the building be postponed until a later meeting, at which point further information could be considered. The council agreed to do so.

If it were to remain intact, the building, which features a 23m x 7.2m pool, and segregated male and female changing facilties, would be in very close proximity to the new Central Access Scheme road which is to be constructed next year, and will bisect Peace Park.