Pool row latest

PUBLISHED: 11:25 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 06 May 2010

SIR – I congratulate your newspaper on publishing excellent contributions recently regarding the proposed flawed development for Westminster Lodge. Those from Messrs May and Webster, Margaret Stone and my wife Ingrid Gilroy all highlight how inadequate th

SIR - I congratulate your newspaper on publishing excellent contributions recently regarding the proposed flawed development for Westminster Lodge. Those from Messrs May and Webster, Margaret Stone and my wife Ingrid Gilroy all highlight how inadequate the SADC planning application proposal is.

May I add my contribution as a user of WLLC for 37 years and as a professional engineering planning manager for 40 years? I am presenting it as a series of key questions and answers specially researched by me in the last three months:

Q. Why will the new main pool be unfit for purpose even from the year it is supposed to open in 2012?

A. Because it will not be big enough to meet customer demand at certain peak times of year even then. At 25 metres by eight lanes it has a maximum bather load (MBL) of only 142 persons. The present main pool (133 MBL) went into overload several times in the summer of 2009 witnessed by customers and staff alike! Customers queuing outside the WLLC doors were turned away! From now on it will just get worse and worse due to extra population demand. We need at least a 25 metre by 10 lane main pool (177 MBL).

Q. Do you mean to tell me that SADC have only planned for nine extra main pool swimmers in the next three decades or more?

A. Yes. SADC team simply lacked the professional competence to plan for the future.

Q. How did the SADC team specify the wrong size main pool?

A. SADC team failed to analyse customer demand for the lifetime of the main pool, say 30-50 years and deduce the required size as a professional would. The SADC team instead consulted badly and were led by the nose by "advisors" to the wrong main pool size conclusion .

Q. So not only could my family be turned away at peak times in the opening year but it would get worse as the years and decades go by?

A. Absolutely. Office of National Statistics figures show the St Albans population growing steadily for the next few decades and thus the demand for more and more main pool water space.

Q. This is appalling - why doesn't SADC come clean and concede they got the main pool size wrong?

A. They don't want to admit their decisive blunder of 2006 and voluntarily go back to the drawing board. They are now living in the past with the fact that they put the cart before the horse. Overload demand by the ordinary swimming public brutally exposed them in summer 2009 - they are now trying to defend the indefensible.

Q. What if SADC admit the truth that a bigger main pool is needed but say they can't afford it?

A. Then go back to the drawing board and reassess everything with a new team, including some WLLC user experts. It will be madness to spend £19 million getting it wrong - we might as well keep the present facility and retain the money until an honest professional conclusion is reached. We owe this to our children, grandchildren and future generations yet to be born.

Q. Is it too late to stop SADC squandering £19 million of our money on a facility featuring a main pool with a derisory nine extra swimming places?

A. No. SADC want you to think it's all sewn up.They haven't got planning permission and with this flawed proposal they don't deserve to. No contracts have been signed or should be. Nothing has been finalised yet or should be.

Q. What is the outlook for the people of St Albans and their future swimming needs if SADC steamroller this flawed proposal through?

A. Very grim indeed. Not only will the present St Albans and environs population see their own being turned away at peak times soon but our children and grandchildren yet to be born will have been badly sold short too! This is a terrible legacy. A wasted opportunity that only comes every 40 years or so.

Q. How did the planners of 1971 get it so right and the planners of 2010 get it so wrong ?

A. The excellent 1971 team built in 38 years of water space growth whereas the team of 2010 didn't know how to and blundered massively! Thank goodness the SADC team has been rumbled by the people turning up as ever to swim in ever increasing numbers in 2009!

Q.What's the next step?

A.Send this SADC team back to the drawing board. They badly need an in-house professional of chief engineer calibre to get this whole project back on track. A delay of even a year getting it right won't be critical - the present WLLC will cope.

Q. What can I do to stop this proposal and get changes made?

A. When the statutory notice is published soon, write to the address below with your comments and objections - it's your legal right. You then only have three weeks to respond!

Planning Development Control Dept, St Albans District Council, Council Offices, Civic Centre, St Peters Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3JE. Case Number 5/2010/0259.

The final word: With local elections and a General Election this year the people can have an extra say on this vital local issue - at the ballot box! Ignore the people of St Albans at your peril!

DAVID L GILROY

Eur Ing, M.Sc.C.Eng. MIET.

Park Avenue, St Albans

SIR - It saddens me to think that Cllr Burton is of the impression that infallibility and intractability go hand in hand but she appears to be an arch practitioner of both as evidenced by her latest letter (Herts Advertiser, February 18) on the proposed new Westminster Lodge development.

She just will not listen to any of the multitudinous objections to her plans which, if they go through, will be a disaster for keen swimmers in St Albans. The dissidents' views have been aired so many times and yet Cllr Burton stubbornly persists in her views that "Sheila knows best". Would that she does.

But far from it and if she gets her way we will have greatly inferior facilities for swimmers at the expense of marginally more water space for beginners.

But where do the beginners go once they can swim? Not to Westminster Lodge where the main pool will become a congestion zone at a suggested cost of half a million pounds a square metre.

I can only suggest to Cllr Burton and her supporting colleagues that value for taxpayers money should be a major consideration and if they persist with their proposed irresponsible profligacy and neglect their duty then the Local Government Ombudsman might feel obliged to step in and and use his powers to surcharge those councillors with a hefty fine for maladministration. It's certainly a thought.

Another thought is that Cllr Burton might get her leader to show some leadership over his minions such as Cllrs White and Witherick to stop them "fiddling with their computers" (letter from Dean Russell, February 4) during council meetings. I think Mr Russell does well to draw attention to this failing in leadership, when they should have been giving their complete and undivided attention to the duties they were elected to perform (and for which they receive generous allowances).

In mitigation for Cllr Witherick it could just be that he was catching up on matters of concern to his electors. As one of them, I phoned him on December 24 on a district council matter - as my telephone records will show - and on January 12 I sent him two emails on county matters. As of today, February 21, I have not had replies to any of these communications nor even the courtesy of any acknowledgement.

PHILIP WEBSTER

Townsend Drive, St Albans


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