Pool is finally set to be installed in Harborough - 28 years after the charity appeal was launched
A leading Market Harborough councillor is poised to finally set up a £50,000 hydrotherapy pool – 28 YEARS after launching the charity.
Cllr Roger Dunton said he hopes to order the special hi-tech pool this month – and install it at Harborough Leisure Centre by April.
Veteran Harborough fundraiser Carole Tilley, who helped launch the Hippo Appeal in 1992, welcomed the crucial breakthrough after almost three decades.
But the furious charity activist insisted the pot of £48,000 should have been used to bankroll the much-needed hydrotherapy pool years ago.
Cllr Dunton, who’s represented Harborough’s Welland ward since May 1987, told the Harborough Mail: “I’m very happy that this money is about to be spent for the people of Market Harborough and South Leicestershire.
“This fantastic pool will be a great advantage and huge asset both for the town and the entire area.
“It’s excellent news all round because this has been going on for some considerable time.”
The long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor said he aims to order the warm-water pool – to treat and rehabilitate “people with handicaps” such as arthritis, back pain and muscle injuries – in February.
“It’s all finally coming to fruition – and I’m very positive about it.
“I hope to place the order for the equipment in the next two to three weeks.
“And all being well it should be installed and up and running for people by the spring,” said Cllr Dunton, who’s also a trustee for Harborough-based Howard Symington Memorial Charity.
“We have got the money and everything is finally falling into place I’m pleased to tell the people of Harborough.”
The married father-of-three said he began holding key talks with managers at the town’s sports complex in October or November.
“I started talking to new management at the leisure centre and it’s gone well.
“We have located an area that seems suitable for the new pool.
“The room will need modifying and adapting to get the new equipment in,” said Cllr Dunton, who was a firefighter in Harborough for 30 years.
“But it’s adjacent to the sports hall so we’ll already have changing and toilet facilities.
“I’ve tried hospitals and the rugby club over the years without success but this spot should be ideal.”
The ex-merchant navy seaman said the £48,000 raked in by fundraisers back in the early 1990s would pay for the pool.
“We’ll need some more money to get the room ready at the leisure centre.
“And I am trying to get that together as we speak,” said Cllr Dunton.
Asked why it’s taken almost 30 years to set up the hydrotherapy pool to help patients, he replied: “I’m not going to make any excuses.
“I have been looking for a home for this pool and trying my hardest.
“We are where we are.
“I’m just sorry that it’s taken so long.”
Cllr Dunton saluted big-hearted local volunteers and fundraisers who collected nearly £50,000.
“I owe them all a big thank you.
“Without them none of this would be possible,” he admitted.
“I also want to say a massive thank you to my family for putting up with me.”
But Carole Tilley, 71, of Bath Street, Harborough, insisted: “I still cannot for the life of me understand why it’s taken nigh on 30 years to make this happen.
“I’m pleased, obviously, that Roger Dunton is getting this pool set up at last.
“It will do a lot of injured and ill people throughout Harborough a lot of good.
“But if someone had told me way back in 1992 when Mr Dunton asked me to support the Hippo Appeal that we’d have to wait until 2020 I’d have thought they were mad or lying.
“It beggars belief.”
The well-known great-grandmother approached both the Mail and Harborough MP Neil O’Brien with her serious concerns about the Hippo Appeal cash fund last autumn.
“I’ve organised hundreds of fundraising schemes over the last 40 or 50 years.
“I’ve always known exactly what I was going to do with the money we raised.
“I’ve always handed the cash over to charities and worthy causes within just weeks,” said Carole.
“A lot of good Harborough people who freely gave their time, effort and energy to get behind the Hippo Appeal have since died.
“And it’s tragic that they’ll never see the fruit of their hard work because this whole venture has taken an incredible 28 years.”
Cllr Phil King, leader of Harborough District Council, said they were keen to help Cllr Dunton finally realise the Hippo Appeal’s dream.
Cllr King told the Mail: “We have been approached by Roger Dunton for money and we are talking about £5,000.
“He’s had a meeting with Norman Proudfoot, our joint chief executive, and it went well.
“We have to bottom out his request and carry out due diligence.”
The Conservative chief added: “We would like to help establish this hydrotherapy pool after all this time.
“We are hopeful of getting this over the line for the benefit of so many people right across Harborough.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “I’d like to pay a huge tribute to people who worked so hard to raise all this money for the Hippo Appeal.
“It is very welcome news to see that after all this time it will now be put to good use and benefit the local community.”