You have probably heard that Harrogate Borough Council are considering whether to build a new Leisure Centre in Knaresborough to replace the existing indoor swimming pool. While we are in favour of the idea, we are very much against what appears to be Harrogate’s first choice of location in the grounds of Conyngham Hall, a precious area of green space for the residents of Knaresborough and for visitors to the town. We believe that the best location is the site of the present swimming pool on York Road. We have recently made our concerns clear in a letter to Harrogate BC which we have copied to all our members. The letter is set out below.
We encourage our members who share our concerns to write themselves to Harrogate BC and to sign the petition at https://www.hklibdems.org.uk/conynghamhall.
Harrogate Borough Council
22nd July 2020
Dear Mr Sampson,
I am following up on Knaresborough Civic Society’s email of the 12th June, which Trevor Watson responded to on the 24th June, regarding the proposed new leisure centre for Knaresborough and the corresponding site options including Conyngham Hall. Knaresborough Civic Society supports the principle of a new leisure centre in Knaresborough, but we could not be more strongly opposed to it being built at Conyngham Hall. As the local authority entrusted with protecting listed buildings in Knaresborough we should not need to explain to you why this is. We have a few questions we would like answered about the leisure centre process, which we hope will lead to Conyngham Hall being ruled as an unsuitable location for the new leisure centre.
In Trevor Watson’s reply it states Harrogate Borough Council will ‘undertake appraisals of four sites.’ The Civic Society is surprised with the selection of the four sites, as only one appears suitable – the existing swimming pool site. The Hay-a-park site is a rural location with poor access and construction on these playing fields would have a massive impact on the rugby club. The grounds of the listed Knaresborough House are so inappropriate a site it is almost laughable. And finally Conyngham Hall, another Grade 2* listed building, whose grounds are almost identical now as they were in the middle of the 19th Century. Construction of a leisure centre here would materially damage Knaresborough’s heritage.
The June cabinet report states that: ‘This is crystallising the location of the new facility to provide an enhanced replacement for Knaresborough Swimming Pool to be either Conyngham Hall or the existing Knaresborough Swimming Pool (KSP) site or playing field.’ It appears that it is not just the Civic Society who questions the suitability of the four sites, as the above quote suggests the appraisal has already been reduced to two sites. Is that correct? Can you also please explain the process and criteria used to shortlist the four sites and list the other sites considered and not put forward? It is a surprise to us that no brown field options were put forward. Trevor’s reply also mentions the appraisal will be informed by planning policy, transport concerns, population needs, environmental impacts and the local development plan. All of which we feel should disqualify the Conyngham Hall site immediately. However, one omission from this appraisal is public consultation. The announcement of the four proposed leisure centre locations was a bolt out of the blue and, from reading the cabinet papers, one with no relevant public consultation informing
By now Harrogate Borough Council must have realised how contentious the proposal for a leisure centre at Conyngham Hall is among residents of Knaresborough. There has been an outpouring of concern on social media, a petition has secured several hundreds signatures within days and it is an issue being talked about with concern throughout the town and this is despite many people still not being aware of what is proposed.
The cabinet report states that a site will be selected in autumn, but we have heard a concerning rumour that Harrogate Borough Council does not intend to conduct a public consultation on selecting a site. Can you confirm that this is true? Can you advise what the Harrogate Borough Council legal departments view on the legitimacy of the process is, without public consultation?
Our preferred option would be a new leisure centre built on a brown field site, preferably the footprint of the existing pool and its car park. This would keep the facilities in a central location, resulting in no loss of green space. In fact a leisure centre here could allow improvements to, and increased use of, the existing playing field and playground next to the pool. The leisure centre could be serviced by the 240 spaces at the York Place car park.
Knaresborough Civic Society worry that the building of a new leisure centre at Conyngham Hall is a fait accompli, please prove us wrong. Harrogate Borough Council is the guardian of the heritage at Conyngham Hall and also, uniquely, its owner. Development in Conyngham Hall’s grounds may appear a good option, it may even appear cost effective, but the damage to an irreplaceable piece of Knaresborough’s heritage and green space will outweigh it all. Please remove Conyngham Hall from the site appraisal. Or at the very minimum, please engage with the Knaresborough community for their thoughts before you make your decision.
Thank you for engaging with us and we look forward to a response to our questions.
Chairman Knaresborough Civic Society