The reopening of Birtley pool has been pushed back, but the swimming clubs bidding to save it remain confident of success.

Birtley Swimming Centre was one of two facilities closed down by Gateshead Council earlier this year due to budget cuts, alongside Gateshead Leisure Centre.

It was hoped that the pool could reopen in April 2024, under the management of a new group formed by members of the Gateshead and Whickham Swimming Club (GAW) and Birtley Amateur Swimming Club.

While almost £30,000 has been raised in a matter of just a few months to breathe life back into the sorely-missed centre, the target date for a reopening has been delayed to September 2024.

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It is hoped that extra time will allow the group to secure grant funding that will get them to the £100,000 mark, as well as offering the opportunity to replace the pool’s unreliable boilers and install new solar panels and other energy-efficient technology.

Matthew Grant, treasurer of the new Birtley Community Aquatic Centre organisation, said: “The delay is necessary for us to raise additional funding so we can reopen. But it also allows us to invest in replacing some old boilers at the pool and to invest in more renewable technology, which will improve our business case.”

It is hoped that money from Sport England and the Community Ownership Fund can be obtained to make up the current funding gap.

Similarly, the Gateshead Active group trying to save the larger Gateshead Leisure Centre were also forced recently to delay its opening from a planned date of New Year’s Eve to an unspecified time early in 2024.

The Northern Echo: Birtley Swimming Centre was one of two facilities closed down by Gateshead Council earlier this yearBirtley Swimming Centre was one of two facilities closed down by Gateshead Council earlier this year (Image: NCJ MEDIA)

A report ahead of a Gateshead Council cabinet meeting next week confirms that the local authority believes neither of the groups “is yet in a position to take a transfer of their respective building and open them to the public”.

However, the local authority praised the work done so far on asset transfers that would see the two shuttered centres handed over to the community groups on 50-year leases and insisted that “the possibility of transferring the buildings to the groups is achievable”.

Labour councillor Angela Douglas, the council’s cabinet member responsible for leisure centres, said: “The community asset transfer groups have shown fantastic progress in the development of their business cases for the transfer of Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley Swim Centre.

"Their plans and ambitions for the centres are commendable, we will continue to support the groups as they progress their plans. I encourage the communities to get behind each group to support them so we can see the doors reopen.”

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Former Saltwell ward councillor Robert Waugh, who now chairs Gateshead Active, told the Local Democracy Reporting service that his group remained confident in their plans for Gateshead Leisure Centre.

He said: “We are really positive about it. We have recruited our management team and they will be starting in early January to make sure we can get our plans in place and to the council’s satisfaction as soon as possible.”

Members of the cabinet will be asked next week to agree to declare the two closed centres surplus to council requirements and agree in principle to the community asset transfers – subject to business plans and other documentation being approved at a later date.