CHARD will have a new swimming pool by the summer of 2021 after plans were approved by the district council.

The town lost its previous pool, the Cresta Leisure Centre, in 2018 after Somerset County Council announced it could no longer afford to maintain the facility.

South Somerset District Council pledged to deliver a new pool and leisure centre for the town as part of its flagship Chard Regeneration Scheme.

With plans for the pool now approved, demolition of the existing buildings on the site will begin in October, with construction on the new facility beginning in January 2020.

The new swimming pool and leisure centre form phase one of the regeneration scheme, which also entails the relocation of the library from the ground floor of Holyrood Mill.

Plans for phase two, involving the future of both Holyrood Mill and Boden Mill, will be brought forward by the council at a later date.

Chief executive Alex Parmley told the area west and regulation committees in Chard on Tuesday evening (September 3) that this was “a priority project” for the council.

He said: “This is about how we improve the health and leisure offer in Chard with a view to revitalise the town centre.

“We have been trying to progress these plans at a rather rapid rate while almost making sure they are robust.

“We are working with our contractors for a timetable. We would envision demolition to commence in October with a view to construction starting in January 2020.”

With the new facility due to be completed by the summer of 2021, schoolchildren in and around Chard will have to continue travelling to Crewkerne and Axminster for swimming lessons – which Mr Parmley described as “quite unfortunate”.

He also confirmed the pool would be “as sustainable as possible”, with energy for the building being generated through solar panels on its roof.

Several residents raised the issue of disabled access and whether a special changing place could be provided to encourage more people to use the pool.

Serena Wootton said: “Presently people are left with the choice of not participating in a trip out or having to change on the floor, which is unhygienic and puts them and their carers at risk. Or they cannot change at all, which just strips away all their dignity.

“The value of having a changing place in Chard will completely outstrip the cost. It’s about being able to increase the amount of people coming into town. It’s a very forward-thinking thing to do and something we can be proud of.”

Mr Parmley said he would pass these concerns onto its design team and see what could be done.

Councillor Jason Baker, who chairs the area west committee, said this was a great way to kick-start the regeneration of Chard.

He said: “It’s what people want in Chard, which is the most important thing.

“The pool and leisure centre is going to help the schools no end – it can only be a benefit to the primary schools in Chard and the surrounding villages.

“This is merely the start of the regeneration of the town, with more exciting things to come forward.”

Councillor Peter Gubbins, who chairs the regulation committee, added: “I have been on the council for many, many years and heard this come up so many times. To sit here as chairman, it does delight me that this is actually going to happen.

“This has got to happen because, like in Yeovil, town centres are struggling, and we’ve got to alter the appeal of town centres.”

Both committees voted overwhelmingly to approve the plans.

The council has not confirmed which leisure company would be responsible for running and managing the new pool on its behalf.

LED Leisure currently runs the pools at Wincanton Leisure Centre and the Goldenstones Leisure Centre in Yeovil.

The council’s district executive committee will discuss future leisure provision at its next meeting in Yeovil on October 5.