CHANGING broken light bulbs at one of the south's leading diving pool centres has cost £8,000 in public money - and experts say that's a bargain!

Divers at The Quays' swimming pool and diving complex in Southampton were faced with pursuing their hobby in the dark as lights in the ceiling burnt out one by one.

But, during the design of the multi-million-pound building, which opened in June 1999, no one spared a thought for how light bulbs sunk into the 15m high ceiling would be changed.

Bosses of the complex were weighing up the expensive options of draining the pool and erecting 20m of scaffolding, which was estimated to cost as much as £30,000, or propping up the moveable diving pool floor to bear the weight of the scaffolding - an engineering nightmare.

Cost and logistics delayed the project for some months, and all the while the lights were going out all over the ceiling.

Then Southampton firm Finest Access Services stepped in with an ingenious solution.

They built a support structure that spans the width of the pool allowing a workman to climb up and change the bulbs. The scaffold is on wheels so it can be moved up and down the pool, allowing all the bulbs to be replaced.

The best bit is the solution costs just £8,000, saving the city council, which runs the pool, around £22,000.

Quays centre manager Andrew Mellor said: "The problem was that the lights were going out and we knew we had to replace them, but the only way of getting access in a safe manner is by building this scaffold structure. But we can't put any excessive weight on the diving pool floor and we were even looking at options to prop it up.

"This firm managed to come in and do the job. It works and it works well, so hats off to them."

He said the council was now looking into how the situation developed.

"There are a number of issues that are being pursued now and one of them is how we got into this position," he said.

Finest Access Services boss Terry Sennett said: "We do this sort of thing every day. We are not just a traditional scaffolding company, we deal in access solutions. It didn't take long to figure it out. It was based on a picture of something I'd seen in a dry dock a few years back. It was common sense."

The work is part of £90,000 worth of improvements to the diving complex, which includes extra-wide 10m high boards to allow for synchronised diving. The diving area of the pool is due to reopen to the public on January 6.