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Three teens arrested as blaze closes town's pool

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 30, 2014

The damage after the fire at Ashbourne Leisure Centre.

The damage after the fire at Ashbourne Leisure Centre.

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THREE Ashbourne teenagers have been arrested over a fire that forced the closure of the town's leisure centre and swimming pool.

The blaze started in a bin outside the building and tore through its plant room, damaging new equipment.

It happened just over 24 hours before the pool's summer season was due to get under way, and shortly after a £400,000 revamp was completed.

Firefighters donned breathing apparatus as they tackled the blaze, which broke out at about 11pm on Saturday in the skate park at the back of the building in Clifton Road.

Rhona Hunt's late father, Charles McKenzie, founded a campaign to raise money to build the pool in 1974.

She said he would have been devastated to hear of the damage the fire caused.

She added: "I feel so appalled and incensed that something like this could happen.

"It was a building built on goodwill and generosity by members of the public for the community to enjoy. I think it just goes and demolishes all that goodwill."

The day before the fire, district council officials had been invited for a first look at a £400,000 renovation project which was days from completion and which would have seen new changing rooms and modernised equipment to run the pool and heating.

Part of the cost of the upgrade was paid for by a grant from Sport England, while the rest was paid for out of the public purse.

Although damage was caused to some of the equipment, the new "changing village", which the £175,000 Sport England grant paid for, was not damaged.

Contractors, who were due to sign off the project this week ready for the pool's summer holiday reopening, started inspecting the plant room on Monday.

The authority is expected to announce how long the pool will be closed for while repairs are carried out over the next few days.

Tom Donnelly, an Ashbourne ward member for Derbyshire Dales District Council, was at the sneak preview of the plant room and changing village on Friday.

He told the News Telegraph how disappointed he was that the grand opening would have to be delayed.

He said: "It's very disappointing when so much time and effort has gone in to making the building better for everyone in the town.

"I find it very upsetting that something like this should happen. I hope we'll be able to get the facilities up and running as soon as possible now.

"But the smell of smoke in a building is a terrible thing and I'd imagine we may have to clean out the whole building."

The council has been able to open other parts of the leisure centre, including the gymnasium and sports hall rooms which were not affected by the fire.

Shortly after the incident, a council spokesman said: "A fire at our Ashbourne Leisure Centre late on Saturday night means the pool is closed while a damage investigation takes place.

"Our 'dry-side facilities', including the fitness suite, are open as usual.

"At one stage, the blaze – thought to have started outside the building – spread to the roof but, fortunately, the centre's new changing village, currently nearing completion, does not seem to have been affected."

Advice has also been issued to pool users who pay for sessions in advance.

In a statement, the authority says: "We're recommending that anyone who pays for swimming lessons at Ashbourne Leisure Centre by direct debit doesn't cancel.

"Refunds will, of course, be available but it would help centre staff if customers could please wait for a few days until we know exactly how long the pool will remain closed."

Police carrying out an investigation into the fire arrested a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man, both from Ashbourne, shortly after the incident.

Another 18-year-old man, also from Ashbourne, was arrested on Monday.

All three were released on police bail, pending further enquiries, until Thursday, August 28.

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