COOL heads are needed to find the best way to provide a new swimming pool in Dorchester.

That's the message from Nick Thornley, community enabling manager at West Dorset District Council, who is leading the project.

He said the council was preparing question and answer sheets to help the public understand the issues involved.

He said: "It's a very complex project and people do get emotional about it.

"It's important to stick to the facts. We're happy to respond to people who have contacted us about it.

"We can let them have a straightforward question and answer response and we will put it on the Dorset for You website."

He added: "The plan is to start building a new pool in 2008. At this stage we're looking to build on a new site at Poundbury."

Mr Thornley said district councillors had pledged to provide a new pool and that they had already planned and budgeted for the cost of up to £5 million.

But the issue had been complicated by calls to keep swimming facilities at the Thomas Hardye School.

Mr Thornley said rebuilding on the school site could be done - but at a price.

He said: "It would add £2 million to the cost of the project. That's because we would lose £1 million being given to us by the Duchy of Cornwall - as long as the pool is built at Poundbury - and because a rebuild on the school site is far more complex it would also take longer."

He said for both options the council wanted a private sector leisure management company to design, build and manage the pool.

The council has stated its preferred choice was to build at Poundbury - an option that would allow the pool at Thomas Hardye School to stay in use until the new one was finished. A build at the school would mean loss of facilities for at least 18 months.

Mr Thornley said the council would consider using the school site but needed assurances from Dorset County Council, which owns the buildings, that it would contribute money for the capital costs and ongoing commitment to future maintenance.

He added: "Our members have to look at the best use of public money and ensure they will get value for money with facilities."

He said schools would be able to use the new pool for lessons. He anticipated that more pupils of first and middle school age would be competent swimmers by the time they reach upper school, as is the case in other areas where schools use community pools.

But Geraint Hughes, head of PE at the school, said Thomas Hardye students would not use a pool at Poundbury because there would not be time to get there and back as part of the school day.

He said: "I just want to be able to teach children to swim. I'd like to see two pools - one here at the school and one at Pound-bury, if that was possible.

"Swimming is vital. Children need to be able to swim a length to get themselves out of trouble in water and yet between five and seven out of every 25 students who start here in Year 9 cannot do that."