Friday, December 1, 2023


GOING back to nature could be the key to the reopening of Newcastle’s historic Rock Pool. Using seawater, which would fill the pool at high tide, could be the solution and pave the way for the listed site’s revival. After its latest closure, lasting four years due to a number of issues based on repairs and refurbishment, the district council is now exploring this option’s viability.

Details of the proposal were outlined during a briefing with a number of local politicians yesterday (Tuesday). During the meeting, it was suggested certain obstacles in the way which have prevented its reopening – including how chlorine-treated water from the pool would not be able to be treated at the nearby processing plant – could be sidestepped. This would, it has been suggested, be achieved by making the pool, which is a listed site, solely filled by seawater during high tides. This would mean that, in effect, the pool’s water level would mirror local tidal conditions; with the pool filling with the incoming tide and then dropping down when the tide goes out again. News that the council is looking at options to transform the swimming pool into a tidal pool has been welcomed by Mournes councillor Laura Devlin and her party colleague, SDLP MLA Colin McGrath. They said that the reopening of the pool has to be one of Newcastle’s key projects, and that should this option be given the green light, it would add to the pool’s usability. Mr McGrath said the pool is “a massive part of our history” and added it is “key in teaching our young people how to swim, which is vital for coastal communities”. He continued: “I know from speaking to constituents from Newcastle and beyond that the Rock Pool is so badly missed. “Having been closed for four years now, that is four years where the young and not so young have missed the magic of the Rock Pool. Four years where our youth have missed out on learning essential lifesaving skills.” With ‘Cold Water Therapy’ having grown significantly in popularity, Mr McGrath said a redeveloped Rock Pool would offer that in a controlled and safe environment, and said that such an offering “would also add immensely to our growing tourism product in the district.” Cllr Devlin, who in August asked council officers about the possibility of exploring the provision of a tidal pool at the Newcastle site, said the pool’s reopening is imperative. With solutions for treating the chlorinated salt water still raising concerns, Cllr Devlin said that “a tidal pool could potentially solve this problem.”

Speaking after the briefing, she said: “All of us are aware that this project is not straightforward, given the pool’s listed status and the number of statutory consultees that will be involved in its redevelopment.  “However, every effort must go into getting the pool reopened on a sustainable basis, and I absolutely welcome this new direction of travel.” She said “anything that takes us that step closer to the pool’s reopening has to be grasped”. Cllr Devlin added: “My vision for the redeveloped Rock Pool would be to obviously offer the traditional cold water swimming but to also look at ways of offering contrast therapy – with perhaps a sauna – this would help the future business case as it would hopefully appeal to local clubs and groups. “Contrast Therapy is increasing in popularity as the health benefits are huge.” Mr McGrath concluded: “The SDLP’s commitment to the Rock Pool has been unwavering. “We have been and continue to be open and up front with the public over the challenges we face. However, none of these challenges are insurmountable.  “We now need all parties, and all agencies, to put their shoulder to the wheel and deliver the restoration of this essential part of Newcastle’s heritage and future legacy.

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