THE PUSH to open an Otley lido has been given a helping hand - by criminal offenders working out community sentences.

The Friends of Otley Lido is drawing up plans to get a heated, open-air swimming pool created on the site of the town's former lido in Wharfemeadows Park.

The old pool was opened in 1924 and well used for decades, but closed in 1993.

Determined to get the site tidied up in anticipation of future development, the Friends group contacted West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) to see if they could help.

The firm, which provides Community Payback* work in the region and supervises offenders, sent a team to the site where they have spent the last couple of months clearing away rubble and undergrowth.

Community Payback Team Manager Dave Finney said: "This first phase of the work means the site is virtually ready for a professional team to come and begin building work - but West Yorkshire CRC has pledged to support the Friends of Otley Lido through the duration of the project.

"Community Payback schemes like the one delivered here provide a means by which offenders learn new skills to support their rehabilitation and future employment prospects, and also put something back into their local community."

The Friends want the new lido - which would include a 30m pool with a retractable roof, and provide free toilets for park users - to become an affordable, year-round facility for the whole community.

The group is working under an exclusivity agreement with Leeds City Council to draw up technical and business proposals for the scheme.

It needs to raise £55,000 to fund a detailed feasibility study, which Otley Town Council pledged £5,000 towards in September.

Friends of Otley Lido Secretary, Leonie Sharp, said: "Our reach is for the whole community, young and old, with access needs and special abilities such as triathletes and exceptional swimmers, and for local kids to learn to swim.

"It will be a truly accessible facility for the whole community and will bring in much needed attraction for the town of Otley and our local businesses.

"It is so important for the community to keep supporting us."

The group intends to provide most of the funding for the lido through a restaurant and gym that would also be part of the riverside development.

*The Community Payback Team in West Yorkshire would like to hear about other local projects in need of assistance - for more details send an e-mail to: .