DURHAM could get a new swimming pool if multi-million pound plans come to fruition.

The city council is looking to replace the city's ageing baths next to the River Wear with a facility on land at Durham Sixth Form College.

The Liberal Democrat-controlled authority hopes to build a 25-metre main pool and a learners' pool that could be used by both the public and schools.

The council was previously looking at redeveloping the existing baths as a "healthy living centre", but the scheme did not progress.

Now it is in talks with Durham County Council, which owns the land and has given support in principle.

Detailed studies into the scheme, which could cost between £3m and £5m, are beginning and the council hopes it will happen in the next couple of years.

In return for donating the land, the county council wants a small gym and changing area built, free use for sixth form college students and free or discounted use for the college's feeder schools.

Council leader Sue Pitts said: "People love the baths but they are well past their sell-by date.

"The pool has more lanes and is shorter than what we are proposing and it is now not entirely appropriate for modern use.

"A new pool will mean modern standards, will be cheaper to run and will be far more environmentally friendly in terms of heating.

"A new pool is something that people have been talking about for a lot of years and now it is time to go on and do it.''

Money for the scheme is likely to come off from a new community fund the council is setting up with the proceeds from land sell-offs.

But some Labour councillors say it will mean money from sites in former pit villages paying for a new facility in the city, possibly at the expense of regeneration in those communities.

Labour leader David Bell said: "If money is raised from land sales in the villages they should benefit from it.''

A Durham County Council spokesman said: "We recognise and support the principle of a new swimming pool for Durham City, but this proposal is currently an idea at the very early stages of investigation.''