FRUSTRATION has been expressed at the near year-long closure of a fire-hit Borders swimming pool.

On June 18 last year, Scottish Fire and Rescue responded to a blaze on the roof at Peebles Swimming Pool at Port Brae.

Although the fire caused moderate damage to the roof structure, there was significant water penetration to the plant room and ceilings within the main pool hall as a consequence of extinguishing the fire and the pool was closed to the public.

The roof tiles were known to be an asbestos-containing material and therefore specialists were engaged to undertake immediate removal of debris from the surrounding site.

As negotiations continued between the council and pool operator Live Borders it was agreed that all roof and ceiling tiles that contained asbestos would be removed as part of the repair works.

In a report presented to members of Scottish Borders Council on Thursday (January 26), John Curry, the council’s director for infrastructure and environment, revealed that the pool is scheduled to finally reopen at the end of April.

Members thanked officers for their work but also expressed the hope that ‘lessons would be learned’ from the protracted process.

Councillor Simon Mountford, the council’s executive member for estate management and planning, said: “Helpfully this report gives an indicative date for the end of April when it is hoped that the repairs will be completed. However, I appreciate, as do officers, that this timetable is much slower than the Tweeddale community would like and I apologise for the inconvenience this has caused to the users of the pool.

“Chief among the reasons for the slow progress were the condition of the roof and the presence of asbestos. As a result the whole building, including the water, has had to be checked and tested and you’ll appreciate this is not a quick process. Difficulty in finding contractors has also obviously contributed to the delays.”

Tweeddale East independent councillor Robin Tatler said: “By the time the pool reopens for nearly a year we will have been without this facility so you can understand the frustration of the local community in Tweeddale and I get the reasons for the delay but it is imperative now that we get it reopened as quickly as we can and that we learn from the experience and review how we could have done better.”

John Curry responded: “We understand the frustration, we understand the concern and we apologise. It’s one of these things, we didn’t start the fire but we’re trying to fix it.”

Tweeddale East councillor Marsall Douglas, of the SNP, said: “This is an absolutely essential facility for the people of Peebles and the wider Tweeddale area. It’s greatly disappointing that this facility will have been closed at least 10 months.

“I know there have been issues with the supply chain and the initial handling of the incident which, let’s remember, was not the fault of the council. This was an attack that has resulted in the great loss of this community facility.”