Outdoor swimming pool plan for Doncaster

Doncaster could have its own outdoor swimming pool under plans being drawn up by leisure bosses.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 6:25 pm

It is among the latest proposals from the Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, the multimillion pound not-for-profit company which runs public leisure facilities across the borough.

Bosses want to develop a lido as part of the Hatfield Water Park facility, and hope to have it in place next year. It would be part of the area currently taken up by the lake, which would be separated from the main boating facility by a barrier.

The idea is provide a safe place for people to swim outdoors in the summer.

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Swimmers in Doncaster could soon be cooling off like this bather at an outdoor pool in York . Picture James Hardisty, (JH1008/82b)

The same scheme would also see a second area created within the lake which would be developed as an water obstacles course, using inflatables for youngsters to clamber over.

It is part of a broader investment plan in the Hatfield site which could also see a residential block and food and beverage facilities.

Michael Hart, the chief executive of the trust, said: “It would be the first time we have done open water swimming, and it will be in a safe part of the the park. There would be lifeguards there, and it would be running during the summer time.

“There would be changing rooms next to the pool, with food and beverage facilities above them, overlooking the pool.”

Green Star Canoe Club founder Esther Mathews, pictured with members of the club at Hatfield Water Park. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-01-09-18-GreenStar-1

Two thirds of the lake would still be used for boating, with the remaining third split into the swimming pool and the obstacle course.

The plans are in the early stages and no artists impressions have yet been created.

But they are the latest proposals from a company which has grown into one one of Doncaster’s biggest employers, with 600 staff working across 13 venues, and a turnover which is now in the region of £13million.

In addition to its key leisure venues, the business also operates a trading arm, which brings in what Mr Hart describes as ‘significant’ revenue which is ploughed back into the leisure facilities.

The trust increase in size significantly in April 2011, when Doncaster Council put the trust in charge of what were previously council-run leisure centres, as austerity bit into the borough’s finances. Prior to that it had just run the Dome and the Rossington community sports village at Rossington All Saints School.

Now, in addition to those leisure centres, it runs venues including Crook Hill golf course and the water park. It also run the Leopard pub and music venue, the Counting House cafe in Bessacarr, and its own brewery. Since it opened last week, it also now runs its own cycle track.

Mr Hart himself first started work as a lifeguard at the Dome. He returned to the venue after graduating from university, and was promoted to the top job at the business via the marketing department.

He sees the trading arm of the company as an important revenue stream for the leisure activities.

“When we took on the Leopard, people asked why we were running a pub. But is also does music, and it s a good venue for us to use to train our staff in hospitality at a smaller venue than the Dome. It was going to be closed and turned into flats when we took it over.

“At the time, we were looking for a venue around Doncaster to programme music on a smaller scale than the Dome, and to use as a trading hub and provide more money for the DCLT. We can get capital grants, but not revenue funding.

“Now a lot of local acts play there, and in the new year we’re introducing Live at the Leopard, where local bands can rehearse for free. We have used it to support the Doncaster Music Hub scheme. We have a lot of cult bands there too.

“It kept a pub open and kept people in jobs. We’re excited about how the developments around the railway station will affect the venue, too”

A year ago this week, the trust opened 1086 Brewery, inside one of the out buildings at Cusworth Hall.

It was seen as a way to improve the trust’s revenue streams, with the backdrop that it bought in a lot of beer from outside organisations.

The restored the old Cusworth brew house, and now brew beer and sell it at a tap room in the same building. It has since then staged its own beer festivals, involving other Doncaster breweries such as Doncaster Brewery, Don Valley Brewery and Hill Top Brewery.

Another recent addition to the trading arm was the Counting House cafe in Bessacarr, which was opened in a former bank building, after the old National Westminster bank moved out. That has now been open for two years.

“The trading arm is a business,” said Mr Hart. It’s important to realise that the profits go back into the company so that we can invest in leisure.”

The revenue helps pay to keep the leisure venues running.

In terms of the leisure side, there have been developments at the Dome recently. It recently had a new entrance built to the gym and main hall. It has new spinning studios and refurbished changing room.

Now there are plans to look at refurbishments and improvements at some of the trust’s other centres, away from the town centre.

“We plan a programme of investment to start in 2020,” Mr Hart said.