The clamour for a new swimming pool in Fakenham rang out loud and clear at a packed public meeting in the town’s community centre.
Voices from the floor, many of them passionate, bemoaned the imminent loss of the Fakenham Academy pool, due to close in July, and the fragile state of the Junior school facility.
There was also some despair that the revived campaign to fight for a new pool could take as long as ten years before it became a reality.
Janet Holdom, coordinator of community group Fakenham Area Partnership, explained that between 2005 and 2011 the partnership had spent time gathering public support for the idea.
“We kept building the evidence to make a proposal for funding through Sport England and had gathered 1200 signatures on a detailed questionnaire,” she said.
“Sadly our bid was not considered because a pool already existed in the town, even though it was not open to the general public.”
Matthew Parr-Burman, the principal of Fakenham Academy, told the meeting that he had no choice but to close the pool.
“The sad truth is that the pool is not financially viable and has not been for the past 20 years,” he said.
“The school has been subsidising it to the tune of thousands of pounds and we had to take the difficult decision a year ago to either close it or lose teachers, increase class sizes and so on.
“We just cannot afford to keep it running. The roof is unstable and needs to be replaced and the oil-fired heating has become increasingly expensive.
“A new 25 metre pool is surely the way forward and I would certainly support any moves towards it.”
Head teacher of the Junior school, Lesley Cooke, pointed out the recent shortcomings of their pool which is now functioning but had been temporarily closed for health and safety reasons.
“The long-term prospects for it are not good and we have been subsidising the costs for a long time,” she said.
“The school would certainly support any campaign to get a new pool for Fakenham.’
District councillor for Fakenham North, Roy Reynolds, vowed to approach the council’s leisure team to investigate what financial help might be available.
And Fakenham rector the Rev Adrian Bell added his support with the suggestion that Trinity College, a major land-owner in the town, might donate something substantial towards a pool.
“Trinity are the patrons of the parish church and 2014 is the 650th anniversary of their patronage,” he said.
“To mark this event, the Dean of Trinity, Dr Michael Banner, will be visiting with us in June and I will certainly put this suggestion to him.” Town councillor Richard Crook, a leading member of the committee set up to help coordinate the campaign, issued a rallying cry to all those gathered in the centre: “We all realise that we are in a dire situation with this but the question has to be are we prepared to fight for something which is going to take quite a while and will need a long-term strategic approach.”
An overwhelming show of hands in the hall indicated full support and there was also agreement that everything should be done to try and keep the Junior school pool functioning as a going concern for as long as possible.