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Macdonald Hotels and Highland Council both open to new talks on Aviemore resort's swimming pool

By Gavin Musgrove

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The Macdonald resort pool in Aviemore has been very popular with local members of the HLH scheme. The nearest provision of public swimming is in Grantown.
The Macdonald resort pool in Aviemore has been very popular with local members of the HLH scheme. The nearest provision of public swimming is in Grantown.

Both Highland Council and Macdonald Hotels Ltd have said they welcome further dialogue on access to the Aviemore resort’s swimming pool for local residents.

There is a channel of communication open but little progress appears to have been made more than two years after the popular facilities closed to High Life Highland members when the first Covid lockdown started.

Pool capacity had been limited mainly due to social distancing requirements in the communal changing area.

However, one year on from swimming resuming in Scotland for individual exercise, the pool, sauna, steam room and whirlpool remain out of bounds.

There have been calls in the community for a return to the previous set-up allowing HLH cardholders access in return for council funding. No public subsidy has been paid since the pandemic started.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council welcomes the opportunity for further dialogue with the resort regarding swimming pool access.”

A Macdonald Hotels spokeswoman said: “Discussions are ongoing with Highland Council. We remain fully committed to reaching an agreement and welcome a constructive dialogue on access for High Life members.”

The Strathy asked the eight local candidates for Highland Council for their views on the current situation. The responses were:

• Bill Lobban (Independent) said: “Surely the time has come for us to build a swimming pool of our own which would be locally owned and run with access for our school kids, HLH members and visitors alike instead of relying on a series of extremely expensive. short term agreements with a private provider.

“Council money would be better spent on supporting a community facility.”

• Muriel Cockburn (SNP) said: “Locals have had too many years of uncertainty and flux with regard to swimming access. Our communities and residents deserve better. The time has come to provide a long term solution. We pride ourselves as a sporting destination and I believe good swimming facilities should be part of that. We must work with all sporting bodies and the council to achieve Aviemore swimming.”

• Dave Fallows (SNP) said: “This is now a long running saga that recurs as a result of short term contracts. A substantial sum is invested by HLH each time which must go some distance toward the viability of the facilities. I believe this contract is of great value to both parties, and I would hope through robust but mutually respectful negotiation, a much longer term arrangement would be the right outcome.”

• Charlie Whelan (Scottish Labour) commented: “Macdonald’s should be ashamed of themselves. They were quick to accept public funding for the Aviemore development and now regularly seem to want to spit in the face of local people.”

• Declan Gallacher (Lib Dem) said: “It’s vital both parties can quickly come to a sustainable and long term agreement. Swimming should be available to locals.”

The council paid the hotel group £205,000 for pool access for the year to November, 2019. The pool had just reopened to HLH members a month before the Covid lockdown started after the two parties had been involved in yet another of many wrangles.

What do you think about the current lack of access to public swimming in Aviemore? Let us know at editorial@sbherald.co.uk

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