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Councillors vow to take action over Castlebar pool pricing

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Ger Flanagan

IF the management of the new leisure complex at Lough Lannagh in Castlebar aren’t prepared to address complaints over pricing issue, then councillors will.
That’s according to Independent Councillor Michael Kilcoyne who raised the ‘very serious issue’ of pricing at last week’s meeting of Castlebar Municipal District. Cllr Kilcoyne said that ‘you should be able to buy a certain service for the pool, without paying for another service’ that a customer will not use.
The €12 million complex currently offers a ‘pay as you go option’ where a single user can pay €10 for use of the swimming pool, health spa and gym. There is also an option where swimmers can purchase a book of ten multi-swim and spa only tickets for €70.
However, the councillors aren’t satisfied that there is no separate option to use the gym or the pool on their own.
“If the management isn’t prepared to deal with the issue of pricing in the pool, then the members of the new council will introduce a section under the act directing them to do so, as they have the right to do,” Cllr Kilcoyne said. “It’s an affront to the members of Mayo County Council that the matter [of pricing] wasn’t brought to their attention.
“It was brought to their attention to raise a loan for it, however, which they [Council] approved.”
Cllr Blackie Gavin (FF) said there would be ‘uproar’ if the price structure wasn’t tackled and demanded that the price of a swim and a gym session be separated.
His party colleague, Cllr Martin McLoughlin reiterated those concerns.
“The public have a huge issue here,” he said. “They are the users of the pool, it is for serving the public and it [pricing structure] is prohibiting them from using it.”
Cllr Joe McHale (SF) said: “What we have is a magnificent facility, but it was decided that there was a brand image on it as well, with Andy Moran’s gym, and they [management] probably decided that, ‘look, we’ll make a killing while we can’.
“But that will not sustain itself, it’s as simple as that.”
It was highlighted that the complex is part-private business, but Cllr Kilcoyne argued that ‘Breaffy House, a private enterprise, can run the pool at a cheaper price for the public compared to an organisation who got €12 million from the taxpayer’.
Cllr Al McDonnell (FF) believes that ‘once the euphoria about the new pool passes’, people will travel to surrounding facilities as opposed to paying extra for a service they won’t use.
Cllr Cyril Burke raised another issue about parents being forced to queue at 5am to book their kids into the first three month block of swimming lessons, but confirmed that the booking will now be available online for the next block.
Mayo County Council’s Head of District, Marie Crowley, told the meeting that she would seek a report on the prices and the proposed climbing wall for the next meeting, which will be before the new members of council.
At the April monthly meeting of Castlebar Municipal District, Padraig Philbin, Head of Tourism with Mayo County Council, said he was thrilled the ‘fantastic facility’ is now open.
He said the new pool is ‘on another level’ from the old pool. He said the councillors had decided the pool would be an eight-lane, 25-metre pool instead of a six-lane alternative. He said this was a ‘fantastic’ addition and means the pool can host galas, running costs are higher and more lifeguards are required for the pool to comply with regulations.
He said the council examined similar pools around the country and pricing models and said their pricing structure is in line with Mayo County Council’s only other pool, Westport Leisure Park, even though, Mr Philbin added, that is a smaller pool.
He urged people to visit the pool and judge for themselves.