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Swimmers to lose access to popular pool in Aviemore

By Gavin Musgrove

TODAY will be the last day that locals can swim for the foreseeable future – and perhaps ever – at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort pool as part of a Highland Council discounted leisure scheme.

The local authority has confirmed there has been no change in the situation over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

It means local swimmers using the High Life Highland scheme will lose out yet again amid bitter recrimination between the Macdonald Hotels Group and council.

The High Life Highland scheme which provides affordable access to the popular facility is due to expire at the end of today with a breakthrough in negotiations looking further away than ever.

It is understood the local authority is offering an improved financial package to the resort owners but the sticking point is an as yet unspecified separate matter.

As the one-year contract expired at the end of November, the hotel group extended the scheme by four weeks to enable talks to proceed with Highland Council.

But there has been no progress made amid claims and counter-claims over failures to hold meetings.

Instead, a phone call between council chief executive Donna Manson, MHG chairman Donald Macdonald and senior MHG staff took place on December 20 but ended within five minutes without any resolution.

Macdonald Hotels boss Donald Macdonald
Macdonald Hotels boss Donald Macdonald

A MHG spokesperson “I am afraid that, given the attitude of the council and the fact that we are now entering the festive holiday period, we will be forced to discontinue our participation in the HLH scheme from December 27.”

Mr Macdonald said: “It’s extremely unfortunate that local people in Aviemore, through no fault of their own, will be the ones to suffer here, but I would urge them to contact Highland Council and make their views known.”

A council spokeswoman said they were disappointed they had not been able to reach an agreement.

The spokeswoman said: “The Highland Council is extremely disappointed with the news release from MHG which is not an accurate reflection of the lengths and effort that the council and its chief executive have gone to, to try to find a resolution with MHG.

"Recognising the importance of access to this facility for the people of Badenoch and Strathspey, the chief executive of Highland Council and her senior staff, with the support of elected members, have on a number of occasions tried to resolve the matter with MHG for more than a year since conclusion of the current arrangement agreed in November 2018."

She added: "We will now look at alternative provision together with HLH."

Some community campaigners march to the resort last August after the pool was closed to them.
Some community campaigners march to the resort last August after the pool was closed to them.

A breakdown in relations over funding in August, last year, meant local HLH users were barred from the pool for three months before a one-year deal was struck. Children missed out on their swimming lessons and aquafit – a popular exercise class – was also cancelled.

A community based Save Our Swimming 2018 campaign was launched with support from the local primary school and GPs to press for a deal.

The nearest public swimming pool to Aviemore is at the Craig MacLean Sports Centre in Grantown.

A council spokeswoman confirmed earlier today that there had been no progress over the festive break.

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