Public must engage in consultations on Mill House Leisure Centre plans - Mike Hill MP

Whilst there was plenty of hot air as usual in Parliament this week, especially with the Conservative Party electing their new leader (and Prime Minister) Boris Johnson on Tuesday, the Met Office has predicted record-breaking temperatures and a heatwave over the next week.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 11:00 am
Mill House Leisure Centre being used as a polling station earlier this year.

We all enjoy the sunshine and the feel good factor it brings; here in Hartlepool it’s great to see folk flocking to the beaches and enjoying the seaside, but we should always be wary of the dangers the sun brings and take heed of advice from our emergency services.

People really do need to take care, especially around water and be aware of the dangers in certain places of swimming to cool down. As ever it’s reassuring to see lifeguards at Seaton to keep everyone safe, but there are plenty of other places around town where people need to be aware of the dangers and be vigilant when bathing.

Because we are a seaside town, compulsory swimming lessons for all schoolchildren has been the norm; indeed it wasn’t so long ago that every secondary school in the constituency had its own pool. Now that situation has changed dramatically and the majority of school pools have gone. This makes it all the more important that the public engages in consultations with the council about plans to replace existing facilities at the Mill House Leisure Centre.

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I know it’s nothing new and that feasibility studies have taken place in the past, but if the town is to get a new swimming pool it has to be of the right standard and in the right place. There is no doubting the fact that the Mill House is past its use by date and that a leisure centre is also a vital public health asset helping people keep fit and tackling issues like obesity, but accessibility will be a key factor in locating any new facility, especially by public transport, if the whole town is to benefit.

Talking about transport, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has hit the headlines on plenty of occasions having made some bold decisions around the revival of Teesside Airport. However his latest policy decision to not take bus services back into public ownership is a massive disappointment.

Under the 2017 Bus Services Act, areas with metro mayors can set up local franchising systems meaning the mayor can dictate bus routes, set service frequencies, maximum fares and set requirements to improve the condition of buses. Companies competing for local contracts would have to comply with these minimum standards. Put simply, the decision-making over when and where bus routes need to be operating would be put squarely back into the hands of the people. Instead the mayor is promoting what he describes as being an ‘Uber-style’ on demand scheme focused largely on rural areas like Elwick and Dalton Piercey where he says there is less demand but where with poor connectivity those areas tend to get cut off.

A bit like the old ‘dial a ride’ scheme passengers will be able to book journeys in advance and the bus companies would match passengers travelling in the same direction and schedule journeys accordingly using a fleet of mini buses. Sorry Ben, but this really is papering over the cracks and not addressing the real issue that it is the bus companies, not the public, who will continue to dictate routes, timetables and service standards here in Hartlepool and across the Tees Valley.

Finally well done to the organisers of the Waterfront Festival. A great weekend, despite the rain on Saturday, and to the organisers of the equally successful Hart Village Fete.