Settle pool was built in the 1970s. Here, Mike Smith explains how local supporters have made sure it remains afloat for generations to come.

DURING its 25 year existence The Friends of Settle Swimming Pool has raised more than £300,000; built strong and enduring relations between the pool and the people of the area; and provided core funding for the major redevelopment project now underway.

The story of the Friends involves many dedicated individuals; a commitment to overcome considerable adversity; and an imaginative and innovative way of fund-raising, well ahead of its time in terms of green credentials.

It was in the early 1990s, some 20 years after Settle pool had been built as a result of considerable long-term fund-raising that a group of pool supporters recognised that swimming pools do not last forever.

Major maintenance is required; costly equipment needs to be replaced; and without a substantial pot of money the continued existence of a pool that lacks local authority backing will inevitably be threatened.

But building up reserves was no easy matter. At that time the charity running the pool consisted of representatives of various bodies, including the local authorities, and their masters were inevitably reluctant to fund the day-to-day expenditure of an organisation that was sitting on a growing body of reserves.

The idea was to set up a separate charity or what, with a nice touch of irony, the advocates described as a ‘sinking fund’.

The Charity Commission took some convincing and set a closure date 21 years after the formation of the Friends. In 2016 this provision was lifted but as the Friends completed their task just five years later that provision proved to be rather prescient.

The initial meeting of the Friends was held in September 1996 and it soon gained widespread support.

But organisation was just a first step. The crucial question was how raise that much needed capital.

One early idea was to set up a 200 club. That proved a great success and continues to this day. But the most lucrative scheme was paper recycling.

The idea that a swimming pool could be floated on recycled paper pre-dated the formation of the Friends. For some time a group of committed individuals had gone round Settle with a trailer collecting paper from households and taking it to the Roberts paper mill, which at that time operated from a site in Langcliffe opposite the entrance to the old Hoffman Kiln.

The creation of the Friends put the organisation on a stronger footing. A further major boost came in the early 2000s when the government set up a recycling credits scheme.

Over a 15 year period the income from paper sales was matched by income from North Yorkshire County Council. For instance in 2010 paper sales generated £10,000 and a further £10,000 came in the form of recycling credits.

The closure of the local paper mill posed a dilemma. But eventually an arrangement was made with the Blackburn–based Rishon company, which provided two closed containers which a hardy group of committed volunteers packed to capacity, ready for transportation across the county boundary.

The austerity years of the 2010s had a big impact as local authority income fell and all but essential services faced the axe. And so in 2017 the recycling credits came to an end.

Worse was to follow. At about the same time the Chinese government decided it no longer wished to be the recipient of the world’s waste paper. And so prices fell to the point where in the winter of 2019 the Settle scheme was generating no income at all.

Covid delivered the final blow. The scheme had to stop as lockdown came in and whilst efforts were made to resume over a period of 18 months and some new volunteers were recruited, too many of the former ones decided to call it a day and so in September 2021 the scheme closed for the foreseeable future.

But by then the Friends had handed over responsibility for the scheme to the main pool charity that had become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and there was no longer a need to separate long term funding from day to day running costs.

The major redevelopment plan was also coming to fruition and so the Friends decided to close down as a separate organisation and hand over their remaining funds as a major contribution to the new build.

In the meantime another regular source of income had come on stream.

In 2017 the pool charity shop was opened in Duke Street, Settle and that now generates up to £50,000 a year leaving the pool in a strong position going forward. The Friends have done their job but there is no doubt that the pool will continue to need good friends to ensure it has the funds for the future because as the original friends recognised a swimming pool pool needs a lot of funding to stay afloat.

The redeveloped Settle and District Pool is due to open in the summer of this year.