SWIMMING in Bolton has had a chequered history.

Crumbling Victorian baths that were once dotted around the town were gradually closed due to soaring repair costs in the 1970s and 1980s.

The town centre Bridgeman Street Baths, built in 1845 by a private company, were thought to be the country’s first public swimming baths since the Roman occupation.

They were taken over by the council, which was forced to close them in 1975 due to soaring running costs and the baths were demolished to make way for a business centre.

The closure of the 82-year-old High Street Baths followed in 1985, after structural faults were found in the building, and the last remaining old-style baths, in Moss Street, Halliwell, which had served the area since 1924, were closed in 1988, shortly before the opening of the state-of-the-art Water Place.

The Queen opened the £5.8 million fun complex in Great Moor Street on December 1, 1988, and it was supposed to herald a new era of swimming in Bolton.

Built over two floors, the pool area was planted with palm trees imported from Florida, had two water flumes, a wave machine, river rides, cascades and disco music.

Visitors could enjoy refreshments at a bar or cafeteria and there were meeting rooms and offices.

Council officials hoped the facility would attract about 350,000 swimming visits a year.

But the Water Place was plagued with problems and just eight months after opening it had to close for two weeks for repairs.

Less than three years later it was revealed that the building was losing thousands of pounds a year, costing Bolton residents £3 a head as three-quarters of the people using it were from outside the borough.

In 1992, there was more bad news when fumes forced the Water Place to be evacuated and 23 swimmers were taken to hospital.

Over the years there were numerous stories of accidents at the pool and bathers having their possessions stolen from changing rooms while they were swimming.

The water slides began leaking and needed £55,000 repairs in 1997, when the council began looking for private sector partners to help them revamp the building.

But, as fewer swimmers began using the facility, ambitious plans to turn the area into a leisure complex, complete with multi-screen cinema, came to nothing when developers pulled out.

The Water Place was finally closed in 2002 with debts of £750,000, leaving the town centre without any public swimming facilities.

It was demolished three years later amid claims that it had been a white elephant which should never have been built.

A key figure in the decision to close the Water Place was Bolton Council’s then deputy director of education and culture, Keith Davies. At the time he pledged to look at the future viability of a town centre swimming pool.

Seven years on and Mr Davies, now director of development and regeneration, is coming good on his promise. He is one of the driving forces behind the proposals for the new complex, called Bolton One.

But it has not been plain sailing. In January last year the swimming pool plans collapsed when the council pulled out of the partnership it had struck up with the University of Bolton, claiming bosses there were dragging their heels in making a decision to commit to the project.

Town hall bosses started to look for new sites, but in February, 2008, there was a glimmer of hope when talks were scheduled between the council and university in a bid to get back on track.

By March, a deal had been struck and the plans were declared back on track. The new £30.6 million pool, sport and health complex is set to be completed by 2012.

The centre, which it has been revealed will be called Bolton One, will house a competition-standard swimming pool, leisure facilities, a four-storey urgent-care medical centre, sports science laboratories and teaching facilities.

It is a joint venture between Bolton Council, NHS Bolton and the University of Bolton.