PLANS to build a new £5.3million swimming pool and spa at Blackbrook in Taunton got the go ahead on Wednesday, August 13, marking another milestone in the scheme to provide first class leisure facilities in the county town.

The pool and spa will be built on a site next to the existing leisure centre at Blackbrook and will replace the ageing pool in St James Street which has become increasingly expensive to maintain.

The development will see a 25m six-lane pool, a smaller learner pool, spa and treatment rooms, changing village, a café and kitchen and storage space.

The decision to build the pool complex follows an in-depth review of swimming provision in the borough that found a new pool was needed as the baths in St James Street pool were near the end of their life. Blackbrook was chosen as it already hosts the popular leisure centre.

Sports pitches close to the planned pool and spa will be retained and 'buffered' by a safety area to avoid any clash between the new buildings and the playing areas.

Concerns were raised by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) about the depth of the pool but their concerns were allayed by the reassurance that the pool depth will range from 0.9m to 1.2m.

Dense scrub near the site will need to be cleared. Some evidence that dormice may be present in that area has been found. A special licence will be needed to clear the undergrowth and a new habitat will be created for the tiny creatures.

The plans include space for car parking and space for coaches for school children using the pool.

Cllr Catherine Herbert, responsible for sports, parks and leisure, said: “I am delighted that we now have planning approval for the new pool and spa. This means we can now move to the next stage.

“Our aim as a council is to ensure Taunton Deane has first class leisure provision to complement our growth plans.

"We have recently upgraded the Station Road pool in Taunton, bringing it into the 21st century and have had some really positive comments from swimmers.

“Facilities at our pool in Wellington have also been improved.

"We must now look at what we can do for younger swimmers and club swimmers. St James Pool has served us well for decades but it really has reached its ‘sell-by’ date and needs replacing.

“The Blackbrook site already hosts the very popular leisure centre run by our partners Tone Leisure and a pool and spa will make it a brilliant leisure complex where people can enjoy all sorts of sports and relaxation from spa treatments to tennis.”

Now planning permission has been granted the council will look to award the contract in October with a potential start on site – weather permitting – in January 2015.