Knaresborough leisure centre

Knaresborough Civic Society say they don’t support planning proposals for new pool and leisure centre

The Knaresborough Civic Society is saying that they oppose the current plans for the redevelopment of the current Knaresborough swimming pool site.

The Civic Societies main points, in the words of Bill Rigby, Chairperson:

Is there a need for this?

  1. Our first question is whether there is an identified need for any expansion of the existing swimming pool. What evidence by way or research or public consultation or survey exists to establish that there is such a need? Evidence shows that in the years 2018-19 and 2019-20 the pool was only used to 50% of its capacity. That does not suggest a need for expansion. According to Sport England a swimming pool should have a life of 70 years. The existing pool is only 30 years old and has recently been refurbished and repaired at considerable expense. So we question whether spending a significant amount of public money on such a facility is a good use of money.
  2. We question also whether an expansion from 4 to 6 swimming lanes is necessary. Sport England’s own figures suggest that the this would change the hourly capacity from 61 people to 69 people, an increase of 13%. Such an increase could easily be achieved by a small increase in the opening hours.
  3. Is a new gym facility needed? There are already two such facilities, one in Market Place and one adjoining the Dower House Hotel on Bond End. A third gym may not be viable and may take customers from two existing local businesses.

The Present Planning Application no 21/04684/RG3MAJ

  1. KCS feels the proposal in its purpose, design, scale and layout does not improve the application site and will adversely affect the environment, community and neighbouring residents.
  2. We have concerns about the siting of the new building. The location of the proposed new building abuts the Knaresborough Conservation Area, listed Masonic Lodge and Grade ll listed Rose Cottage which dates back to 1685 and is very close to the joint boundary. The elevation diagrams demonstrate a significant dwarfing and overlooking of Rose Cottage, with a solid wall also blocking the space directly in front of and just a few metres from the property’s (single glazed) windows.
  3. The building is too large and looks like an industrial warehouse. It is not appropriate for a new building on this site at the gateway of the town and will blight Fysche Field for the foreseeable future. The park is a key feature of the urban landscape of Knaresborough, and this design shows absolutely no sympathy or understanding of its nature, geography, urban context or use.
  4. There is real concern that the grey & red brick and metal cladding on such a ubiquitous design, will not serve as a suitably inspiring or distinctive edifice for generations to come. In particular the metal cladding is totally out of keeping with the character of central Knaresborough buildings and a more appropriate cladding than the metal crinkle pattern should be sought.
  5. The loss of the children’s playground for a number of years, even if eventually replaced elsewhere, will blight the childhoods of 2-11 year olds presently resident in the town.
  6. The proposal requires the felling of 21 mature trees leading to loss of existing bio-diversity and extension of paved areas.
  7. The earlier public consultation about the siting of the proposed facility referred to building this “on the site of the existing swimming pool”. This was the favoured option of the three sites offered. But that is not what is now proposed. Instead the proposal is to create a building site for a number of years adjoining the existing pool, followed by creating a demolition site where the existing building now stands. That is not what the public voted for.
  8. What evidence exists that this proposal will meet the environmental and climate saving credentials of the Council? We have read and noted the Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy. We note in particular the objective of incorporating “energy efficient design in the council’s public building construction projects by aiming for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) score of Outstanding in new public building construction projects.”
    and ensuring “that sustainable energy and low carbon technology is embedded in future development plans.” The amount of ’embedded carbon’ in the construction of the new building involving vast amounts of concrete and other raw materials, as well as the environmental costs of disposal of the broken up remains of the existing building and we believe that these are strong and compelling arguments not to proceed.
  9. We are calling on HBC, before responding to this planning application to thoroughly investigate the option of extending the existing leisure centre and to compare the lifetime and embedded carbon emissions and ecological impacts of the new building design, compared with a low carbon refurbishment of the existing building and the cost per tonne of C02 saved. As well as embodied energy, the development should set ambitious targets in carbon reduction. It is completely feasible to retrofit to very high carbon efficiency standards. Rather than spending money on a new build, cost savings can be invested in installing highly carbon efficient equipment and systems, giving life time savings in carbon and costs. The money saved can also be invested in low carbon retrofits of other Council buildings such as the Town Hall and Knaresborough House in Knaresborough.
  10. Looking at running costs and annual generation of CO2, we can see from the Energy Statement that space and water heating is to be fuelled partly by air source heat pumps supplemented with gas boilers, but no figures have been presented to demonstrate the balance between these sources.
  11. Overall, as far as KCS is concerned, this is a poor and badly conceived piece of urban design. We urge the Council to reject this planning application.

Bill Rigby, chair of the Knaresborough Civic Society, said:

The pool is only 30-years-old, which is no age in building terms. We are asking the council to review the current proposals, and to look more seriously at redeveloping the current site, retaining both the playing fields and play ground area.

Although there has a consultation and planning process, that process didn’t make it clear as to how much of that site would be used.


Councillor Stanley Lumley, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, and chair of the board of directors at Brimhams Active, said:

Knaresborough Swimming Pool was built over 30 years ago and is now showing signs of age. Resulting in ongoing maintenance issues that can be a challenge to resolve without a closure of the pool and an impact on the customer.

The new energy-efficient leisure and wellness centre, which will include a six-lane swimming pool and activity pool, will prevent future closures and offer more water space than the existing facility. Meaning many more people will have the opportunity to learn to swim and swim for fitness or leisure in the future.

But not only that; we want to provide Knaresborough with provide modern, fit-for-purpose leisure facilities to ensure people can be healthier, more active and enjoy a happier and more independent life.

These facilities will include a sauna and steam suite, fitness area, bespoke cycling studio, café as well as electric car charging points, bicycle storage and a new play area. Meaning we can level-up the facilities in Knaresborough to match other areas of the district.

Following a consultation last year, this is something Harrogate district residents have expressed they would welcome, and in October – when we asked people for their views for the proposals – more than half of respondents were in favour of the scheme and expressed that it was a great development which will be positive for the area and will benefit the expanding population.

Others agreed it was a good design and a welcome addition to leisure facilities in Knaresborough.

Following the public engagement event, we have also made a number of amendments to the scheme in response to what people have suggested. Including changes to the brickwork and cladding to be more in-keeping with the character of Knaresborough, removal of glazing to reduce the potential for light spill into neighbouring properties, as well as some further work to look at replacement tree species.

The open space on Fysche Field will be retained, trees will be replaced at a ratio of 2:1 and the temporary closure of the existing playground will be as managed as best as possible to ensure children don’t go without for any longer than necessary.

The new facility will also have the necessary energy-efficient measures to help achieve our own carbon reduction goals. The facility will have a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ sustainability rating – which is no mean task for a swimming pool.  This will include renewables in the form of Photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps.

Once complete, this investment will create a 21st century facility that provides fantastic opportunities for local people to move more, live well and feel great

Harrogate Borough Council’s Response to the Civic Society

Knaresborough Civic Society claims the process of getting to this point has not been democratic and has not reflected community interests, for example, a public petition against the plans has been, they claim, completely ignored by HBC.

    • A consultation* last year identified that residents would welcome new facilities in Knaresborough. And in October – when we asked people for their views for the proposals – more than half of respondents were in favour of the scheme and expressed that it was a great development which will be positive for the area and will benefit the expanding population. Others agreed it was a good design and a welcome addition to leisure facilities in Knaresborough. Residents can share their comments on the proposed planning application via our website.

Knaresborough Civic Society claims that an alternative proposal by a local architect supported by the civic society to retain but modify the existing swimming pool called Community Alternative Proposal for New Knaresborough Leisure Centre which would save money, be less disruptive, be more visually attractive and more environmentally friendly has been offered to HBC but ignored by HBC.

      • This alternative proposal has been reviewed by Harrogate Borough Council but would result in a significant closure of the existing facility and would not provide all the additional leisure provision that will be delivered in a new facility. By creating a new energy-efficient leisure and wellness centre – that will have a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ sustainability rating – we will be able to keep the existing facility open until the new is ready, as well as providing Knaresborough with provide modern, fit-for-purpose leisure facilities to ensure people can be healthier, more active and enjoy a happier and more independent life.
      • The alternative architectural proposal also fails to recognise that extending existing pools is not technically feasible and that the existing structure would not support the building over of a new first floor. There is no input from structural or services engineer nor quantity surveyor.
      • The planning application/design proposals that have been submitted have been compiled by a design team that has specialist knowledge of building many swimming pool and leisure centres across the country.

In Summer 2020 HBC engaged with residents, current users and those who did not use leisure facilities asking their views to what they desired and was practical in developing a new combined leisure for Knaresborough. It was a combined consultation also asking new developments at the Hydro, but there was a specific sections regarding each site. We had 417 responses, with 64 per cent of respondents stated they would use a new leisure centre at Knaresborough, which we advised would be a mixed dry and wet site.

The next consultation in winter 2020 involved the questions about proposed site of the new wet and dry site at Knaresborough and people’s preferred location. We had 471 responses and 81 per cent stated they agreed that the current site was their preferred location.

1 Comment

  1. ‘We had 471 responses and 81 per cent stated they agreed that the current site was their preferred location.’

    But failed to mention it was going to extend across Fysche Field thereby losing this valuable green space. But also by frightening the public by hyping Conyngham Hall as the location of the new leisure centre. When people focused their efforts on fighting this the proposal to build on the existing site felt like a victory to the public. The developers /HBC will have intended to expand the existing site all along but by threatening Conyngham as a site the public feel that they’ve somehow had a victory but in reality they’ve ended up with the council’s original plan. Classic negotiation tactics.

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