ABERDEENSHIRE councillors have paved the way for a decaying art deco swimming pool complex - granted Category-A listed status because of its outstanding architectural and historic importance - to be eventually restored to its former glory.
In its heyday, the Tarlair open air swimming pool complex on the outskirts of Macduff was the last word in outdoor leisure.
But, since it closed 1995, Tarlair - hailed as “one of the forgotten architectural gems of Scotland” has become a derelict eyesore and is now on the “high risk” list of Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register.
Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Banff and Buchan area committee were urged on Tuesday by officials to approve plans to spend up to £1.1 million on a “moderate” refurbishment scheme while more detailed options for the future of the complex are investigated.
But the members of the committee rejected the proposals and instead voted to put the future of the complex on hold while they seek detailed reports on a range of options, including plans for a total refurbishment scheme, estimated to cost up to £2.5 million.
Stephen Archer, the council’s director of infrastructure services, had told the committee that the option being recommended by officials to safeguard the pool was to seek planning and listed buildings permission to demolish the changing rooms, infill the boating and paddling pools and create soft landscaped areas at the site.
Mr Archer explained: “The main pool would be retained and used either for the model boat club or stocked with fish and plants. At a minimum, external refurbishment of the tea pavilion would be required and full refurbishment dependant on the demand for the facility. A figure of £500,000 to £750,000 is envisaged at this juncture, with potentially an additional £400,000 to refurbish the tea pavilion.
“The cost of a full refurbishment would be in the region of £2.5 million. This would result in the pools being taken back into use. Whilst it would be popular with elements of the community, it is questionable whether the capital and revenue outlay could be supported.”
He continued: “Stonehaven (outdoor) Pool has deficit funding of circa £50,000 per annum. In addition, there would still be significant ongoing maintenance costs to the complex. There is no funding identified in the capital plan at this juncture to upgrade Tarlair. Other sources of funding require to be identified.”
Councillor John Cox, the chairman of the committee, said: “We have not ruled anything in or out. The key question is - do we put money into something that nobody is going to use. But there is no point in us agreeing, for example, to fill in the pools when the group that would use the complex in the future are saying that is not what they want.”
He continued: “It was a positive meeting. There were concerns that putting money into derelict buildings just for the sake of it because they are listed was a waste of money. However, if it means putting money into restoring something that is going to lead to economic regeneration, meet the aspirations of the community and create jobs then we need to look at that approach.”
The committee’s decision was not welcomed by members of the Friends of Tarlair Group, formed last year to lead efforts to restore the complex.
Dod Chalmers, a spokesman for the group, said: “We were not impressed with the plan to fill in part of the pool. To me that is not restoring it - that is just filling it in. This is not what this place is about. I didn’t start this community group to get this place filled in with grass.
“We want to use the facilities that are here not just fill it in and forget about it.”
The large outdoor swimming pool, boating pond and art deco tea pavilion first opened in 1931. John Miller, the architect, who was also the burgh surveyor for Macduff, designed the pool’s outer wall to be fractionally below high-tide level, enabling waves to roll in over the edge, refilling it with clean sea water twice a day.
The Buildings at Risk Register states: “It is one of only three known surviving sea-side outdoor swimming pool complexes in Scotland, and certainly the one that best retains its original appearance. The other examples are Stonehaven (1934, listed at category B), which was never tidal, and Gourock, which has been greatly altered and is no longer tidal.
“Its state of intactness, simple yet stylish design, early date and magnificent location all contribute to make this pool the outstanding surviving example of its type in Scotland.”
Tarlair was first outdoor baths in Scotland to be granted Category-A listed status when it was recognised for its outstanding architectural and historic importance in 2007.