Monday, July 02, 2007

New Pool Consultation

A quick reminder that the deadline for responses to the new swimming pool consultation is this Wednesday, 4th July.

The consultation

A number of residents have contacted me about this, to express concern that there is no 'third option' of refurbishing the pool on the consultation. I have already conveyed local residents' frustration at the lack of a 'refurbishment' option in the consultation to the officer leading on the consultation. He contacted the consultants carrying out the surveys and confirmed that they are "capturing the views of those people who favour the refurbishment option" and has assured me that all views will be included in the report to the Mayor on 11 July 2007. The reason they are only consulting on the two options, is because following officer advice on the cost-effectiveness of refurbishment versus rebuild, the Mayor & Cabinet ruled out the refurbishment option at their meeting on 16th Mayor. The full report prepared for that meeting can be found here.

A meaningful consultation needs to note the views of all residents, yet it would be similarly meaningless to offer residents the option of a refurbishment if the Mayor has already ruled it out on cost grounds.

I have asked for further breakdown of their cost estimates. If it would indeed be cheaper (including running costs) to build a new pool, rather than refurbishing a 30 year old pool and there would be no gap in provision, then this may make sense for the borough.

The Save Ladywell Pool campaign have their own suggestions on how to fill in the consultation.

What facilities will the Loampit pool have?
There seems to be some uncertainty amongst residents (and to an extent councillors!) about what facilities the new Loampit pool would have.
In brief, it will have:
  • 8 lane 25 metre competition pool
  • 20 metre teaching pool with moveable floor
  • Dance, exercise and aerobics studio
  • 100 station fitness suite
  • Health spa
  • Crèche
  • Cafe
So on the plus side, it will have a considerably bigger gym than the one at Ladywell.

The new pool will be 8 x 25m lanes, rather than the current 6 x 33m lanes. ie the same swimming space, if not v slightly more than the existing pool at Ladywell. This is so that it will meet Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England competition standards and would be available for County level competition. Sounds reasonable to me. The 33 metre 6 lane pool at Ladywell cannot currently be used for such competitions, having a non standard length.

Other points
I have asked for further information from officers on a number of points, including:
  • What facilities will be provided in the health spa, and whether this includes a replacement for the much-loved Turkish baths.
  • Further details on why there are no plans for diving facilities at the new pool.
  • Windows: my understanding following a conversation with the Mayor is that the new pool will be built on the ground floor and will have windows providing natural light, but again, I've asked for further assurance on this point.
  • Funding: I have also asked for further clarification on the funding of the new pool and how any surplus receipts from the sale of the Ladywell site will be spent. Some of the money from the sale of Aragon Tower on the Pepys estate was apparently put aside for a new leisure centre, and the argument for selling the Ladywell site is to pay for the new pool, yet it is also possible that the developers will foot a large part of the bill for the new pool (financed by the flats above it), so I am waiting for further information on this. What I wouldn't want is a trade-off which meant very little affordable housing in the flats above, because of the cost of the pool.
  • Energy-saving/carbon-emissions for rebuild vs refurbishment. I've asked for further clarification on the energy-saving/carbon-emissions argument behind building the new pool - how much more energy efficient will it be versus the energy costs involved in building it - how long will it take for it to start 'saving' energy and carbon emissions compared to Ladywell, once construction was taken into account. At a recent meeting I attended, the officer present told me the new building would be zero carbon, but I am awaiting further details on how this will be achieved, if it is in fact the case. Normally, it is considered greener to refurbish buildings than rebuild, but the huge energy use of swimming pools, particularly those built 30-odd years ago, mean that this might not be the case in this instance.

I'll post any response I get to the above points (assuming it's not confidential).

When we were elected last year, we stood on a platform of opposing the closure of Ladywell Pool until a replacement with equal or better facilities had been built and that remains the case now. We were delighted the Mayor agreed not to build the new school there and not to demolish the pool before a replacement was ready. I'll reserve my final opinion on refurbishment vs new pool at Loampit until I have answers to the points I raised above, but at the moment, I do think that building a new pool at Loampit Vale could be the better long-term option, in terms of financial cost, energy savings and provision. I don't think building a new pool at the Ladywell Leisure Centre with a minimum 2- year gap in swimming provision would be a good idea (look how long Downham had to wait for their new pool). Loampit Vale will be a bit further for those of us close to the current site, but perfectably walkable/cyclable and with better public transport links than the current site (ie DLR and train as well as being served by buses) for more residents of the borough.


max said...

This consultation is a complete travesty.

Its only purpose is to deflect attention from the awful work done in planning the Loampit Vale Pool.

If a new pool should be built than it has to be substantially bigger.
Ladywell is already overcrowded and with the forecast density at and around Loampit Vale a new pool there should be planned with realistic usage projection in mind.

In the initial plans for the redevelopment of the Town centre the pool was part of a mixed development but was a standalone building only joined to a residential development.
This plan is a monstruosity. That one is not a community facility. It's a private pool that the swimming club will be allowed to use and that the current users of Ladywell Pool will find too busy most of the time.

Why is it that in the planning of the new pool no increased usage derived by the redevelopment of the Town Centre has been accounted?
Why is it that Loampit Vale is so much better because of the major transport interchange but no additional usage is accounted from it?

These are the questions that should be asked.
If there's no answer (as there hasn't been until now) than it means that the new pool will be a under-provision and a comparison to Ladywell can be made.

You point at the increased gym at Loampit Vale but that's just the number of machines, as the Council admits, Ladywell has a lot of unused space, so many more machines can be fitted.

By the way, the size of the gym is the only feature that has not been determined by the Leisure Needs Analysis. That has doubled.

You mention Loampit Vale Pool being standard for competitions and say that Ladywell cannot host County level competitions. Well' it could with a movable boom that is an inexpensive and common way to adapt longer than standard pools.
The main advantage for club use at Loampit Vale would be that it would be 8 lanes and that's handy for the club because gala work out more speedily and you can have more swimmers. But it's no use for the general public. People love the 33m pool. A provision that provide advantages to both the club and the general public is what must be planned, not one that makes the club happy but penalizes everyone else. And it can be done in terms of space with added lanes, so that the club can function alongside regular swimming.

But this will not happen if 754 flats are built.
Looks like houses to provide buy to let investment opportunities are squeezing out the life from that leisure centre.

We had been told that a mixed use development at Loampit Vale was necessary to fund the new pool.
754 flats are an enormity, plus the Council has the £6.94m of capital funds form the sale of Aragon Tower earmarked for the new pool.

I'm sorry, the numbers don't stack up. We're being badly shortchanged.

Knit Nurse said...

I suspect it will prove very 'difficult' for the council officers to separate out the cost of the pool from the overall development so I fear we will never know the true cost of the new pool.

Regarding your point about energy efficiency of the old pool, it is a good point. However you can see here
how the council in Chesterfield used a very imaginative solution to improve efficiency at their pool (the original pool, incidentally, is practically identical in terms of size and age, to Ladywell although it has been added to since original construction).

jenni said...

How will the new pool cope with all the local schools using it? as i live close to ladywell pools i see lots of school children going there.Some schools that currently walk to the pools will have to arrange transport as it will be further to walk