‘Legionella’ outbreak at £1m park changing rooms in Northampton

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CHANGING rooms at the Racecourse in Northampton, which cost £1 million to build, have been closed for the third time in five years after another outbreak of the bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

The changing rooms, which were jointly funded by the Northampton Borough Council and the Football Foundation, were officially opened by Labour Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe in July 2007 and he described them at the time as “state-of-the-art.”

But the changing rooms remained closed to the public until December 2007, after a dispute between Anglian Water and the borough council about the chlorine levels in the water supply.

In February 2010, the changing rooms were then closed again for four weeks after the legionella bacteria was detected.

The bacteria, which if inhaled can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease, was detected again in February this year and the changing rooms were closed for a third time. Councillor John Caswell (Con, New Duston), cabinet member for the environment, said the council was working on “long-term arrangements” to prevent the problem happening again.

He said: “External specialists have been working on this and in order to get the facility back into use as soon as possible, we anticipate reopening half of the changing rooms and toilets during the course of next week using cold mains water only.

“There will be eight changing rooms open, toilets and hand basins will be working, but the showers will be out of service.

“We are sorry for the continued inconvenience but people’s safety remains our top priority.

“We are actively working on long-term arrangements to prevent this problem re-occurring and to make a wider range of facilities available in the building once more.”

Kevin Evans, secretary of the Racecourse bowls league, said the lack of toilets was a serious inconvenience for the people who would be playing in bowls matches during the next few weeks.

He said: “It is obvious that a lot of our players are going to need toilet facilities during the season.

“It is ridiculous that after several months through our off-season this has not been fixed.”