HANDS off our pool!

That’s the message to civic chiefs just days before they vote on controversial plans to allow a private company to run Lymington’s Sea Water Baths for the next five years.

Lymington-based Lynx Sports Management is vowing to invest up to £40,000 on the site in the first year alone.

Proposals include the introduction of zorbing, which involves rolling downhill or along a level surface inside a large orb made of transparent plastic. The installation of zip wires is also under discussion.

Lymington and Pennington Town Council says it wants to modernise the facility and ease the drain on the public purse at the same time.

But Friends of Lymington Seawater Baths have launched a petition against the Lynx scheme, which will be debated by councillors next week.

Sheena Pratt, one of the group’s founder members, said: “Everyone we’ve spoken to can’t understand why the pool needs to be any different.

“Lymington residents love it and visitors are amazed, often describing it as a fantastic facility.

“Virtually everyone in the town supports the pool. They know it’s big, they know it’s old but it’s their pool and they love it.”

A statement on the group’s website says the council is “selling off” the rights to run the lido.

But the authority is hailing the proposed deal as a partnership scheme, with Lynx and the authority funding different aspects of the operation.

Lynx will pocket the gate money, which is likely to increase as a result of extra facilities being provided, but the council says it expects to make savings of at least £40,000 a year.

A report to members says: “Lynx Management offers the best deal, with little or no financial risk to the council.

“While the council will not make any money on the deal it will significantly reduce the costs it has previously incurred while ensuring that the public has a swimming facility and with improved activities.”

Lynx Management is run by Hugo Ambrose, who described the baths in their present form as obsolete.

He added: “Lymington is a popular town that attracts a considerable number of holidaymakers but all you can do in the pool at the moment is swim and it’s not very well used. By making the necessary investment we can make sure the baths are not fully reliant on hot weather.”

Asked about the opposition to his proposals he said: “It’s great that residents care about the baths. However, people have to accept that the pool is costing public money and something should be done to stop that from happening.”