A Guisborough swimming group has defended the town's 40-year old pool, which was recently described as an embarrassment.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for a new pool, but the aquafit group feels some comments made at last month's town council meeting were harsh.

The group has 65 members who meet to exercise and swim on different days of the week. While it accepts the pool is rather elderly, it is concerned that the pool debate might become over-heated.

This week, it praised the pool's friendly staff, cleanliness and affordable admission charges.

One member, Mrs Quita Owen, told the D&S Times this week: "Yes the building does look its age and is in need of attention. However, it is well run, always clean and tidy, and the charges are reasonable. Above all, it is a place where everyone is made to feel welcome, regardless of age or ability.

"Many people comment on the friendly atmosphere. In fact, Guisborough pool attracts swimmers from across the borough and from North Yorkshire. They are willing to travel here because it is their favourite pool.

"We think this is a tribute to the cheerful, hard working and helpful staff who take time and trouble to provide excellent customer service," she stressed.

The numerous weekly activities demonstrated the popularity of the pool.

"As well as the usual school and public swimming sessions, there are lessons here for children, requested by the children themselves. There are also sun beds, sauna facilities, lifesaving classes and swimming clubs. There is help for disabled users and non-swimmers, who enjoy the aquafit classes. The pool is easily accessible with plenty of free car parking space.

"We do sympathise with youngsters who feel that their pool isn't as smart as other, more modern pools. Their leaders also deserve praise for all the hard work they have put into the steering group, in addition to running the successful club," she stressed.

However, while she accepted a new pool would be great, she was concerned about the tone of the debate. She feared that negative publicity could hit the existing pool's good reputation.

"It would be a great pity, and very unjust, if the impression persisted that the pool is some sort of disgrace to Guisborough. It would be even worse if people were put off using it."

At last month's town council meeting, steering group member Mrs Jill Slade claimed people who came to swimming galas at Guisborough were horrified when they arrived.

While the town council supported the steering group's ultimate aim of getting a new pool, it was unable to offer any money towards the £10,000 feasibility study. It hoped Redcar and Cleveland Council could assist with money or expertise