Anger as new St Albans pool is closed for private party

ANGER has greeted a decision to shut the new Westminster Lodge swimming pool on Sunday (December 30) because a private party took priority.

Although the website for the newly-opened leisure centre said that the pool complex was open for everyone that afternoon, a mother and her three children went along at 3pm only to find the main pool closed for a private party and the other two pools shut as well.

Mrs Deirdre Cairns, of The Ridgeway, St Albans, has complained to her local councillors, the operators Everyone Active and the district council about the closure.

She questioned how Everyone Active could justify closing the pool to families for fun swimming on a Sunday afternoon, let alone during the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

She went on: “I can take my children shopping, to a restaurant, to the pub but not to a public swimming pool. Is it any wonder we are creating a generation of unfit and unhealthy children?”

Mrs Cairns also asked what was the justification behind renting the pool out to a private party in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. She said that pools in Hatfield were only available for a private party after they had closed to the public.

In addition, she pointed out that the Westminster Lodge telephone message directed people to the web page for further information about the timetable – only for the website to say it was open that afternoon.

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Mrs Cairns added: “On a personal note, I find it very difficult to understand how we can maintain the enthusiasm of the Olympic legacy and logo ‘inspire a generation’ if I can’t even find a pool to take my children to swim on a Sunday afternoon despite the huge investment in the new Westminster Lodge in our home city.”

Bookings mix-up

Her irritation with the situation has been taken up by Cllr Anthony Rowlands, the Lib Dem leisure spokesman on the district council, who found out that there had been a problem with insufficient lifeguards that afternoon which meant the small pool and water confidence pool could not open.

He said: “Apparently, the reason for the closure of the main pool was a mix-up over booking times which meant that a private party had mistakenly been allowed exclusive use of the main pool when it should have been available to the general public.”

He pointed out that by deciding to let the party go ahead and close the pool to the public, Everyone Active management had shown that when push came to shove, private hire arrangements were valued more than public access.

He added: “That this happened on a Sunday during a holiday period makes this an even more inexplicable act of managerial incompetence.”

A spokesperson for Everyone Active explained: “On the day in question when Ms Cairns attended Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre we had a private party booking that was due to start at 3.15pm. The booking was taken in error by a member of our staff as our standard hours for pool parties are from 3.45pm onwards on Sundays.

“The issue was compounded due to an error with our website over the Christmas period, showing that the pool was open to the public until 5pm. We are in the process of rectifying the issue with our opening times on our website to reflect the fact that we close the main pool at 3.30pm on Sundays for private bookings although the teaching pool stays open until 4pm.”

She added: “We are also looking into opening up the teaching pool to the general public, wherever possible, during times when the main pool is being used for private parties.

“We have contacted Ms Cairns direct regarding the issues that have affected her and her family.”