Pool plight

PUBLISHED: 10:54 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

SIR – I swim regularly at Westminster Lodge and in my opinion Cllr Sheila Burton is wrong in assuming that because the overall water space being planned for the new pool is greater than the current pool that this means that the design is an improvement.

SIR - I swim regularly at Westminster Lodge and in my opinion Cllr Sheila Burton is wrong in assuming that because the overall water space being planned for the new pool is greater than the current pool that this means that the design is an improvement.

When I asked how the length of the current pool would compare with the length of the new pool, I was told by a member of Westminster Lodge staff that it will be approximately a third shorter than the current pool.

Having swum in 25m-long pools, albeit it with the eight lanes, I would say that the longer length does make a difference, especially when the pool is being used by a lot of people.

I remember when the current pool was being planned and there were many who said we would regret not making it an Olympic-size pool then. Are we about to present our children and grandchildren with a similar dilemma?

It is possible to add additional facilities such as restaurants, leisure centres, climbing walls, badminton courts and so on, relatively easily if they have been part of the overall design, but the one thing you can't change is the size, shape and depth of the pool.

I would add that more people of all ages, at any one time, will use and benefit from a swimming pool, than they will any other sporting facility.

Given that we have a good pool, with diving boards (which I have seen both children and adults enjoy) and zooms, a café, a leisure centre and a heath club, why don't we pause and tackle the plans for a new facility, in a well thought out and constructive way?

Incorporating the Abbey Theatre properly into the plans for the new centre, rather than leaving this excellent amenity stuck away behind the new development, would be a step in the right direction. At one time the theatre talked of proposals for a restaurant/café, surely with a bit of 'community' involvement we can build what is regarded by everyone as a spectacular venue. I would urge our council to pause and take a long hard look at what they are planning to hastily push through. How much is it for their 'glory' now, rather than the long term good?

Are they bold enough to sacrifice their moment in the limelight and to wait, giving everyone the chance to get this project as good as it can possibly be?

If we need to spend some money to refurbish the current pool in order to give us the time to do this then I think this would be worthwhile. I only hope English Heritage will have the foresight to refuse consent for the development for the moment and that the trial digs being undertaken by Wessex Archaeology will result in a delay to the current timetable, ensuring that all those involved can reappraise this scheme.

MARGARET STONE

Orchard Street, St Albans

SIR - I have been following the saga in your newspaper regarding the proposed new development for Westminster Lodge.

It's a wonderful idea but it's a pity that parts of it are flawed even before planning permission has been applied for!

The new main pool will only be able to accommodate nine extra swimmers before overload (142 persons). The present main pool overload figure is 133. In the summer of 2009 I witnessed swimmers being turned away due to the pool being into overload (133 persons). I was told this also happened at summer weekends, bank holidays and during school holidays.

The highly popular government swimming scheme has been very successful. This, combined with the amount of planned new housing and that already under construction plus last summer's main pool overloads should have alerted the planners to re-assess the proposed size of the new main pool. This is without the accepted need for a new primary school in the district .

Were the Westminster Lodge overload figures of 2009 ever reported to SADC or are they still in blissful ignorance with all that entails? Were any studies reflecting population growth ever carried out to assess the size of the new pool needed over its complete lifetime?

The present swimming pool was built in 1971 and the outdoor pool at Cottonmill in 1905 (still being used by the Sub Aqua Club). The new pool seems only to have a projected lifetime of 25 years. Surely with improved building techniques and materials the facility should last at least for 50 years to ensure good value for money?

It stands to reason the new main pool should be at least 25m by 10 lanes to satisfy the steadily increasing population growth. This is especially important now, as Bricket Wood Leisure Centre is closing in February 2010.

I understand that a hostel for the homeless is being sold to help provide money for the new Westminster Lodge development. This is disgraceful.

If anyone else feels as I do , please write to St Albans District Council (SADC) objecting to this profligacy with the people's money. Did I hear £19 million being spent on a facility which includes an inadequate main pool size likely to be overloaded in the year it is built, with only nine extra swimming spaces provided?

Now is the time to send the SADC planners back to the drawing board before a massive mistake with the people's money is made regarding the new main pool size. SADC are in the process of applying for planning permission now. Please object to this flawed scheme when you see the official notice and case number published in the newspaper.

Please do this within the three weeks allowed for comments and objections, by writing to the council at: Planning Development Control Dept, St Albans District Council, Council Offices, Civic Centre, St Peters Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3JE.

INGRID GILROY

Park Avenue, St Albans


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