THE go-ahead has finally been given for the council to search for a suitable housing developer to build on the site of a former city swimming pool after years of delays.

The derelict former Sansome Walk swimming pool, which closed in December 2016, was due to have been demolished earlier this year but work was delayed to due to a higher-than-expected amount of asbestos found in the building and buried in the ground.

The cost of demolishing the former swimming pool has already risen to at least £2.2 million.

Worcester City Council has been in discussions with Homes England - which has access to around 40 approved developers - about potentially building houses on the site of the former swimming pool and whether it could offer any money to support making the site safe and ready for development. The council is waiting for a decision on potential funding and is likely to receive it in the new year.

Cllr Louis Stephen suggested making the environmental sustainability of the development a bigger priority at the meeting of the council's policy and resources committee on Tuesday (December 10).

Cllr Simon Geraghty said he was concerned it would stop the plan from moving forward.

He said: “We all want to see a resolution for this sight. We have had the debate about what the site is used for – and there were differences in opinion – but I think it is a settled matter now.

“This is already a difficult and complex site,” he said. “I just can’t think of another site in Worcester with the same level of complexity and conflicting issues.”

Cllr Geraghty said he was worried giving too much weight to environmental concerns would be at the expense of other priorities.

Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of the city council, agreed and said there were a number of elements that were all “equally important” and focusing solely on sustainability would result in the council trading off other aspects such as the amount of social housing.

David Blake, managing director of Worcester City Council, said officers had already looked at making the new homes as environmentally sustainable as possible and had already shifted the weight towards quality rather than making as much money as possible.

Cllr Joy Squires, who represents Arboretum ward where the former swimming pool sits, said the council had been as “ambitious as she could ever have hoped for” and was confident the city would get a “very good development.”

To access grant money from Homes England, the development would need to be of at least 50 homes.

Even more money would be needed to make the site safe and ready for development - but even an estimate of that cost has yet to have been revealed.

It has also been proposed by the council that the scheme would be "over and above" in terms of environmental sustainability - particularly with the council declaring a climate emergency and committing to go carbon neutral by 2030.

The council said it wants to put more importance on providing a quality development rather than a solely cash-generated one.

Discussions by councillors in July revealed the council was expecting demolition to start in February next year and last eight and a half months until October.

A number of surveys were carried out in 2017 to find out how much asbestos was in the building before the contract for the demolition work was put out to tender.

Additional surveys in September last year found more asbestos than was expected leading to further investigations.

Councillors first backed plans to demolish the former swimming pool in January 2017 after concerns the derelict site would become a target for vandals and trespassers.