Tuesday 31 August 2010 8.51am
If Southward could persuade SBEG to search through their files they would find a load of consultation confirming the local priority given to a swimming pool.
My assumption has been that there has been a decade-long stand off between SBEG and Southwark, with South Bank University also playing a role. So no pool.
Pools are expensive. The real cost of each visit is probably in excess of 12 pounds. Entrance fees cannot be set at this level as no one would go. The area can probably only afford one pool if that pool is to operate at close to break even. (Which makes me wonder whether Southwark have left their initiative to the point where Doon Street
is likely to happen in order to ensure they have an argument for not providing their own.)
My concern is that Doon Street
is far less accessible for the majority of residential users seeking a pool, particularly the young and old. (The potential catchment is huge and stretches as far as Stockwell on the Kennington side: nearest pools are Surrey Quays, Peckham, Brixton, Clapham Manor - though this is threatened, the Oasis and Victoria.) Doon Street
however is a better location for office workers on both sides of the Thames and they will be able to pay more. The danger then is that we end up with something that resembles a private health club rather than swimming provision for local people.
The way a pool is managed and who is considered the target market is important, not just because of pricing. My daughter is swimming with a swimming club, and there really is a dire shortage of pool time in Central London. The Latchmere is a leisure pool and not suitable. Swimmers at Putney have to compete for pool booking with a variety of adult groups including canoe football and underwater hockey, which means that kids as young as 8 or 9 are expected to swim at 5.30-6.30 on a Monday morning. Swimmers reaching national/international level are doing part of their training in the Queen Mum diving pool (no 50m pool for them!), whilst Fulham is kept so warm (to please the leisure swimmers) that swimmers have to get out every 20 minutes and take a cold shower to avoid overheating. In addition leisure contracts at both Brixton and Clapham seem to preclude Club use. The pool at the Shell Centre
is used in the evenings by adult swim/water polo clubs, but Shell don't seem keen on opening up to clubs providing for youth and age group swimming. Because of the problems the Amateur Swimming Association has earmarked developmental funding for the area for a number of years, but the lack of a pool this money remains unspent.
Swim training requires a lot of pool time so, though I would like to, I cannot argue that a pool should be designed solely around sports use. However there is a need to have a sensible and open discussion about potential demand and costs, which then feed into decisions on location, design and management which help achieve a pool that is as economically sustainable as it can be and which will deliver to local people.
Certainly for Clubs the Elephant would work better, as getting from the South Bank to most schools in the early morning would be a nightmare. (The Queen Mother is similarly good with swimmers finishing at 7.30 in time to complete journeys to schools all over the place.)
The ASAs London HQ is in Black Prince road so they know the area. I hope Southwark are drawing on their expertise.