After an incredible 28-year wait, is the new £50,000 hydrotherapy pool finally poised to be set up in Harborough?

Harborough councillor says the long-awaited monent is 'just around the corner'

By Philip Hibble
Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 12:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 12:42 pm
Cllr Roger Dunton says the long-awaited monent is 'just around the corner'
Cllr Roger Dunton says the long-awaited monent is 'just around the corner'

A new £50,000 hydrotherapy pool is finally poised to be set up in Market Harborough after an incredible 28 years, a leading councillor says.

Hopes are rising that the high-spec pool will be installed at Harborough Leisure Centre after an extraordinary campaign amazingly stretching across three decades.

Cllr Roger Dunton, 73, is vowing to finally make the long-cherished dream of scores of Harborough volunteers and fundraisers come true after he helped to launch the Hippo Charity appeal way back in 1992.

But he still has to convince veteran Market Harborough charity stalwart Carole Tilley as she insisted – 'I’ll believe it when I see it'.

Cllr Dunton, who has just been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, told the Harborough Mail: “This has been going on for long enough and I am determined to make it happen now.

“The people of Market Harborough and right across Harborough deserve this fantastic new therapy pool to be put in place as soon as we can.”

The long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor declared: “We have been trying to get this pool set up in our town since the 1990s.

“Now I am hoping that the moment could be just round the corner.”

Cllr Dunton said Harborough Leisure Centre on Northampton Road, Market Harborough, will provide the ideal base for the long-awaited warm-water treatment pool.

“We have pinpointed an area of the building which will be very suitable for the therapy pod.

“I don’t want to say where it will be installed in the sports centre exactly.

“But I have the £48,000 that it will cost us to buy the pool, all the kit and equipment and to have it installed by the manufacturer,” said the married father-of-three and former on-call firefighter.

“It will cost about £5,000 to carry out essential modifications to the part of the building we’ve identified so that we can install the pool properly and make it work.”

Cllr Dunton, who has represented Market Harborough’s Welland ward on Harborough District Council since 1987, said he’s asked the local authority for a grant to fund the vital work.

He said he held a very constructive meeting with the council’s chief executive Norman Proudfoot just a week ago about the ambitious scheme.

“I have also been talking to Matt Hopkin, the leisure centre’s manager, about this exciting project,” said the newly-honoured councillor.

“We were hoping to carry this out and get it done much earlier this year.

“But then the pandemic intervened and has held up the whole process.

“There is only eight weeks lead time to get this brilliant new therapy pool installed once we get the final go-ahead.

“It will prove to be of huge benefit to the community of Market Harborough and the entire area.

“This facility will be a massive asset for the NHS and Market Harborough Medical Centre.

“We’ll have people being treated in the pool through GP referrals.

“All in all it’s going to be great news, a massive new positive for the whole of Harborough and the sooner we are up and running the better,” said Cllr Dunton, who’s also a trustee for Harborough-based Howard Symington Memorial Charity.

The hi-tech pool will treat and rehabilitate “people with handicaps”, such as arthritis, back pain and muscle injuries, as well as people injured in accidents.

Carole Tilley, 72, of Bath Street, Market Harborough, helped to fire up the Hippo Appeal in 1992 – and she admits she’s got “sick and tired” of waiting for the pool to be delivered.

Known and loved all over the town for her tireless fundraising, Carole told the Mail: “I’ll believe it when I see it.

“I helped to get the Hippo Appeal off the ground with Cllr Roger Dunton and a lot of other amazing people so that we could have this fantastic therapy pool.

“But almost 30 years later we are still standing here talking about it – and that simply beggars belief.

“So I will reserve judgement until I actually see people stepping into this pool at our sports centre up the road and receiving critical treatment.”

The angry great-grandmother said people ask her “all the time” what has happened to the £48,000 raked in by countless Hippo Appeal supporters.

“I’ve lost count of the number of people in Market Harborough who have asked me about that cash.

“They are furious, as well being very confused by the whole thing, and so am I.

“And I have to tell them that I can’t really tell them,” stressed Carole.

“There are a lot of questions out there about this endless drama – and it’s about time we had definite answers.

“This pool could have been treating hundreds, if not thousands, of local people who desperately need to be treated in a hydrotherapy pool for many years.

“This whole situation is nothing less than tragic.

“And I feel so sorry for all my colleagues and fellow volunteers who took part in sponsored walks and all sorts of activities all those years ago to support the appeal – and many of them are no longer even with us,” said Carole.

“I went to our MP Neil O’Brien and the Harborough Mail in the first place to kickstart this appeal and drag it back out into the open after years of being hidden away and forgotten about.

“So there’ll be nobody out there who’ll be happier than me when Cllr Roger Dunton gets this pool set up at last.

“But it should have been installed way back in about 1992 or 1993 – not in 2020 or 2021.”

Talking about being approached for cash help by Cllr Dunton, a Harborough District Council spokeswoman said: “The council is currently considering the request for additional funding to support the installation of the hydrotherapy pod at Harborough Leisure Centre.

“We have requested some information from health partners about the needs of local residents for a facility of this type, which will help us to assess the options.”