Work is going ahead to set up a new £50,000 hydrotherapy pod at a Market Harborough sports centre – almost 30 years after the charity bankrolling it was launched.
The breakthrough blueprint to finally install the hi-tech treatment and rehab unit at Harborough Leisure Centre on Northampton Road is being masterminded by the popular complex’s operator Everyone Active.
The company’s managers are locked in talks with Cllr Roger Dunton, a trustee of the Hippo Appeal which has the cash, and the Charity Commission as they strive to seal the deal.
But furious charity campaigner Carole Tilley, 73, who helped to launch the high-octane fundraising drive back in 1992 to pay for a new therapy pool, insisted: “I’ll have to see it to believe it.”
Matthew Hopkin, Everyone Active’s contract manager, told the Harborough Mail that the long-running venture which stretches back nearly three decades is proving a “complex process”.
But he insisted that they are making “progress”.
“We are continuing to work on plans for a hydrotherapy pod to be installed at Harborough Leisure Centre.
“It is a complex process but a lot of work has gone into the project and we are pleased to say that progress is being made,” said Matthew.
“We are currently in discussions with the Hippo Appeal, which holds the charitable money, and the Charity Commission regarding the possible installation of the pod.
“We will continue to consult them and all of our stakeholders and hope to provide further positive news on this development in the near future.”
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission, which oversees and regulates charities in the UK, told the Mail that they have met Cllr Dunton as they carry out an in-depth investigation into the incredible saga.
“We recognise the continued concern in Market Harborough that this money should now be put to use and we have met with the trustee of the funds as part of our ongoing examination of this matter,” she said.
“Our intention remains to ensure that the funds raised are used in the local area, in line with the original purposes for which they were raised.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien has got behind Carole Tilley for over two years in a bid to put the Hippo Appeal cash currently lying in a Market Harborough Building Society account to good use at last.
“I'm pleased to hear that this is at long last now moving forward.
“Many of my constituents in Market Harborough and beyond supported this project when it was launched almost 30 years ago,” said Neil.
“And I know for a fact that they are just as keen now to see these funds going towards good local causes.”
Saluting indomitable charity fundraiser Carole, the Conservative MP added: “I'd like to pay a special tribute to Carole Tilley for her ongoing and determined efforts to see this money that she helped to generate being used for the purposes it was raised for.
“Carole will be known to many in Market Harborough for her incredible fundraising efforts across the town over many decades.
“And I am very grateful to her for bringing this crucial issue to my attention.”
Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough District Council, said: “This whole matter has gone on for far too long.
“Along with many other people in Market Harborough I want to see this brought to a speedy and satisfactory resolution for everyone concerned.”
Battling Carole, of Bath Street, Market Harborough, told the Mail: “We can only hope that this finally gets across the line.
“I can hardly believe that when I helped get the Hippo Appeal off the ground way back in 1992 that I’d still be fighting tooth and nail in 2021 to get a new hydrotherapy pod set up.
“It is simply unbelievable that it has taken getting on for half a lifetime to get this close,” said inspiring Carole, who’s raked in tens of thousands of pounds for charities across Harborough over the last 50 years.
“People who have led the Hippo Appeal over the last 30 years or so have a lot of serious questions to answer.
“I just hope that we do finally get this therapy pod put in at our sports centre so that a lot of poor people who are ill or injured in our area will feel the benefit.
“But I’m not holding my breath.
“Along with a lot of other people in Market Harborough I’m just sick and fed-up that after nearly 30 long years we are still talking about making this happen.
“But thanks to the Harborough Mail and my army of supporters we are keeping this critical issue very much in the public eye.
“And I will fight to my last breath to make sure that all of the fantastic people who helped to raise this £50,000 and those who donated it will see their dream come true after all these years.”