MULTI-MILLION pound plans to build a controversial swimming pool will be discussed tonight by a specially-convened meeting of councillors.

Members of Durham City Council's cabinet will be asked to choose between five options for the city's new 25-metre pool, to be built on county council-owned land at Freeman's Place, next to Durham Sixth Form College.

The ruling Liberal Democrat group plans to finance the pool, which will replace the crumbling 70-year-old baths in Old Elvet, by selling off pockets of land around the city for housing - a policy which has provoked anger among opposition Labour councillors.

The options being discussed at tonight's meeting range from a basic five-lane pool, which would cost £7m to build and an annual subsidy of almost £490,000 to run, up to an eight-lane pool with spectator gallery and health and fitness suite, which would cost £11m to build and require an annual subsidy of more than £380,000.

Councillors are expected to opt for the most expensive option - even though the building costs would be almost double the £5.8m suggested when the pool plans were agreed in principle in May.

The city's search for a replacement pool, which has continued for 20 years, has become highly politically-charged in a city that is still haunted by the financial problems which dogged the early years of the Gala Theatre.

Labour councillors have already expressed outrage at what they describe as "asset-stripping gone mad" in selling off land across the district to pay for a city centre pool.

The authority has insisted that construction of the new pool would be financed partly through the sale of land and partly through a private sector health and fitness partner - with no costs to the taxpayer.

It also said that, after the first 18 months, any increased subsidy following the move from Old Elvet to Freeman's Place would be met from the savings generated when the council moves its offices from the existing high rental city centre sites to a new building at Meadowfield.