Berkshire

Reading council ordered to release pool sale details

Arthur Hill Campaign
Image caption The Arthur Hill Campaign group has protested against the council's decision to sell the pool

A council which is selling a community swimming pool to property developers has been ordered to release details of the deal.

Reading Borough Council chose One of a Kind Developments as its preferred bidder for the Arthur Hill swimming pool site in June last year.

The Information Commissioner has told the authority it must release a report explaining that choice by 25 June.

The council faces action for contempt of court if it fails to comply.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Arthur Hill Memorial Baths opened on 29 November 1911

The pool building on Kings Road was built in 1911 on land donated by the family of Arthur Hill, the mayor of Reading between 1883 and 1887.

However, the site was closed in December 2016 after councillors deemed it too expensive to maintain.

It was later earmarked for development despite campaigners claiming the pool "was given to the people of Reading, not to the council to sell off for a bit of money".

The authority released a redacted version of a report about the sale following a Freedom of Information request, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Reading council previously said the details were "commercially sensitive" and would remain confidential until the sale was agreed.

But the Information Commissioner has told the council it failed to provide sufficient justification for withholding the details.

Image caption Reading council said it would need to have spent £700,000 to bring the building up to standard

A spokesman for the Arthur Hill Campaign said the council's arguments had been "flimsy".

"But for deliberate foot-dragging by the council, this matter would have been resolved months ago and local residents would know why the council has decided to sell the pool to a property developer rather than keep it in community use," he added.

In a statement, the council said it was "currently reviewing its position and will be contacting the third parties involved in the bidding process".

The authority has 28 days to appeal the decision.

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