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Poots confirms 50m pool for Bangor

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Sports Minister, Edwin Poots MLA confirmed North Down Borough Council as the preferred bidder to build Northern Ireland's first 50 metre swimming pool.

He said: "I am pleased to announce that following the competition and a rigorous evaluation process, undertaken by Sport Northern Ireland, North Down Borough Council has been selected as the preferred bidder to build Northern Ireland's first 50 metre swimming pool.

"This represents a significant milestone in the delivery of the Elite Facilities Programme and should ensure that the 50 metre pool is in operation by 2010."

The Minister continued: "This project will go a long way towards addressing Northern Ireland's need for world class sporting facilities and will be complimented in due course by the other proposals currently being examined by Sport Northern Ireland under phase two of the Elite Facilities programme.

"This will deliver a sporting infrastructure until now unavailable in Northern Ireland and is part of a strategy to bring Olympians to the Province for acclimatisation and training purposes in advance of the Games"

The Minister added that he looked forward to seeing the project develop as quickly as possible.

"It is very important that central and local government works together to ensure that Northern Ireland has first class sporting facilities which everyone can enjoy and benefit from. Today's news is evidence that we are moving in the right direction to achieve our aim," he added.

Welcoming the Minister's announcement, Mayor of North Down, Dr Stephen Farry, MLA said: "This is a momentous development for North Down and we are absolutely delighted with the news that Bangor has been selected as the preferred site for Northern Ireland's Olympic-sized 50m pool.  This could represent a grant award to the Council of up to £15 million.

"Our bid was the culmination of many months of hard work and we were always confident that it was a very strong proposal.  We look forward to starting the build at our site at Valentine's Playing Fields in Spring 2008 and with a 22-month build period we would then open the new facility in March 2010.  There is much now to be done and we look forward to working in partnership with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Sport Northern Ireland and Swim Ulster to deliver what will be a world-class new aquatics facility for Northern Ireland."

North Down's Chair of Leisure, Councillor Alan Leslie, said: "Opening Northern Ireland's first 50m pool in 2010 will mean that it can be used to prepare Northern Ireland's swimmers for major competitions.  We also look forward to hosting training camps and competitions for international teams prior to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2010, which will be fantastic for sports fans.

"The economic benefits of the pool to North Down are significant.  Though staging swimming championships and training camps alone, it is envisaged it would contribute more than £220,000 to the wider local economy on an annual basis.  The pool will be built as part of a £40 million multi-purpose leisure centre, which will provide sporting opportunities, not just for our elite swimmers, but also for the local community."

North Down MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon also commented. She said: "This is absolutely fantastic news for the constituency and for Northern Ireland as a whole.  I pay the warmest tribute to North Down Borough Council for its tremendous hard work, determination and skill in achieving this superb result.

"This Olympic development will have a lasting benefit for the local community, long after those participating in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have packed up and gone home.  Much has been made of the 2012 legacy and I am thrilled that North Down will now share a piece of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy inheritance."

North Down Borough Council will now be asked to produce a full business case and an economic appraisal to government standards. Sport Northern Ireland will provide North Down with assistance and guidance now that the competition for this project has been completed.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

In March 2006 it was announced that £53million had provisionally been allocated for high priority sports infrastructure projects and that winning projects could attract up to 75% of the capital costs.

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has given Northern Ireland an opportunity to improve its sporting facilities and DCAL will work in partnership with Sport Northern Ireland and  North Down Borough Council to take forward the development of this facility which will create a legacy for future generations.

The 50 metre pool project is the first phase in the Elite Facilities programme operated by Sport Northern Ireland. Applications to phase two of this programme are currently under consideration by Sport Northern Ireland. It is anticipated that the building of the 50 metre swimming pool is completed by 2010 in preparation for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Media enquiries to DCAL Press Office on 028 90 258901 or email: press.office@dcalni.gov.uk or duty press officer pager number 07699715440.