A CONCERNED councillor and dad-of-one has started a petition to get a temporary swimming pool installed in Andover during the construction of the town’s new leisure centre.

Town councillor Andy Fitchet launched the campaign after the Advertiser revealed last Friday that Andover could be without a pool for up to two years while work is carried out on the West Street facility.

The Andover and North West Hampshire Labour Party chairman has described the concept as a “massive oversight” and believes the town is too big not to have some form of swimming pool.

He said: “For me having swimming facilities in the town is crucial, absolutely crucial.

“It’s used by all types of people across the town.

“To say to people “well tough luck” – I think that’s Test Valley Borough Council backing out on its statutory requirement to provide leisure facilities for residents.”

One particular concern for the dad-of-one is the impact that the loss of a swimming pool could have on pensioners, children and those with disabilities.

And the 27-year-old is worried that his own son, Jonah, might not be able to learn to swim until he is much older if Andover is left high and dry without a pool.

He said: “For those who don’t have a car or find it difficult to get around it could be really tough.

Tidworth is the nearest swimming pool and that is an hour-long bus journey and Basingstoke would be a £9 train trip and then a bus journey on top of that.

“That’s three hours out of your day for one swim and some people just don’t have the time to do that.”

The part-time baptist minister is now calling for Test Valley Borough Council to provide a temporary pool while incoming provider, Places for People, complete the construction of the new leisure centre.

Andover Advertiser:

(Councillor Fitchet and son Jonah outside the current Andover Leisure Centre)

Mr Fitchet says a similar structure was erected in Dumfries, Scotland, during the construction of its new pool in 2014.

He admits the initial cost of installing a temporary pool will be a pricey £700,000.

But Mr Fitchet claims Dumfries and Galloway Council recouped around £600,000 from entry fees.

The councillor believes that the temporary structure, which can be put up in 14 weeks, could be placed on Shepherds Spring Lane Car Park.

He added: “That would be the best location for it in my opinion.

“It will be near the town centre and the car park is very underused anyway.”

The mini-swim centre would include a six-lane 25-metre pool and is kitted out with its own changing facilities.

The temporary facility is placed on ground level meaning there is no requirement for digging and that it can be taken down in just four weeks.

One group to back the plans is OAP support class The Peter Pan Club.

The bi-weekly group, which has run for nearly 40 years and has more than 300 members , relies on Andover Leisure Centre to host meetings .

The club uses the centre to put on sports such as badminton, table tennis and swimming, allowing older people to stay fit and healthy in their later years .

The group’s chairman for the last 12 years, John Oliver, says the loss of th e leisure centre would be disastrous for members .

Mr Oliver, 77, said: “From the club’s point of view, if we are not here we wouldn’t have anywhere else which is large enough to couple with the number of members.

“For many people here it’s a chance to get out and talk and meet with people and for others it is important for them medically to get exercise.

“I think that’s the important thing, there needs to be something like this in the town.”

He added: “I said to someone the other day, if we don’t have anywhere to go for two years there won’t be any of us left by the time we come back.”

The Advertiser contacted Test Valley Borough Council this week for a response to the petition, which has racked-up more than 100 votes since it was started last Friday.

Community and leisure portfolio holder Cllr Tony Ward said: “The council has been looking at options to help reduce the impact on customers while the new leisure centre is being built, including the option to provide a temporary pool.

“We are continuing to investigate whether or not this would be feasible and will be in a position to share further information in the coming weeks.

“We will also be hosting a public exhibition on the leisure centre proposals.

“This will tak e place in advance of the work commencing and we will be publishing details of the exhibition shortly.”

The petition is due to run until Friday 27 January.

To view the petition visit: www.change.org/p/andover-labour-party-test-valley-to-providetemporary-swimming-facilitieswhilst-the-new-pool-is-built.