WATCHED by a crowd of hundreds, town hall chiefs laid the foundation stone of Radcliffe’s new £210,000 public swimming baths.

But the ceremony was only symbolic, as work on the foundations is still under way and the building of the main structure will not start until the spring.

So on Monday morning, the specially-commissioned brick panel was demolished and the stone was put into storage on the site.

After the laying of the stone, around 130 guests attended a buffet lunch in the town hall.

Speaking to guests, the Mayor of Radcliffe, Alderman Jack Lomax, said he thought the swimming pool plans could have been more ambitious.

He would have liked to have seen a civic centre built alongside the baths.

Mr Lomax added that everyone had had their money’s worth from the old baths and if the new one carried on producing swimmers of the calibre of Peter and Pauline Sillett then it would be well worthwhile.

William Gower, head of firm of architects which designed the baths, presented Alderman Richard Fletcher with the gavel and trowel with which he had laid the foundation stone.

Mr Fletcher described the project as a “great venture” but said he also thought the scheme could have been more adventurous.

It could have included a youth centre and a civic hall and, although this would have increased the cost of the project, the town’s financial reserves were more than adequate to meet it.

Critics of the project, he said, would be answered when the new facility opened as it would attract people from all over the area and make the old Whittaker Street baths look “sick and ridiculous” by comparison.

He was glad that the town had been “forward-looking enough” to build the new baths and added that the chief medical officer, Dr T Seymour Jones, had been concerned about the standard of the old pool for some time.

Also present at the ceremony were members of Radcliffe Swimming Club and David Ensor MP.