Fight for bigger St Albans swimming pool enters final stage

A LAST-ditch bid to get the district council to build a bigger swimming pool at the new Westminster Lodge complex has been launched. A planning application for the multi-million pound scheme has now been submitted and it would be built close to the fronta

A LAST-ditch bid to get the district council to build a bigger swimming pool at the new Westminster Lodge complex has been launched.

A planning application for the multi-million pound scheme has now been submitted and it would be built close to the frontage with Holywell Hill, St Albans, rather than on the footprint of the existing building.

Swimmers have been particularly concerned since the scheme was first mooted that the new pool will not be large enough to cope with increased demand for swimming space in the future.

Eight lanes


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The present pool measures 33 metres with six lanes whereas the new one will be 25 metres with eight lanes.

Campaigners say that swimmers were turned away from the pool last summer because of overcrowding. The present pool can hold 133 bathers but they claim the new pool will only have space for nine more.

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One objector, Kim Thornton, of St Leonards Court, Sandridge, said that with a brand-new site attracting more customers and the closure of other pools in the area, it was imperative that the new pool should be larger.

Residents have launched a Pool Too Small website to galvanise 11th-hour support for a larger pool to be incorporated.

They are supported by Labour district councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate Roma Mills.

She said: "We have to remember that Bricket Wood Sports Centre is being closed and there are still no concrete proposals for replacement facilities in the south of the district.

"This means there is going to be even greater pressure on Westminster Lodge, yet the proposed pool is shorter than the existing one and will provide next to nothing in terms of extra capacity."

But Cllr Sheila Burton, the council's portfolio holder for sport and healthy living, said the arguments to rethink the size of the new main pool were ill-informed.

She said: "The pool size meets the demands of county competition galas required by schools.

An Olympic size pool suggested by campaigners would be twice this size but it would also be twice the cost and would cost double to heat as well.

"But the pool our experts have chosen also offers family friendly flexibility as it has a movable floor to cater for the needs of learners as well as competition-standard swimmers.

Learner pool

"There will also be a bigger learner pool and 'confidence water' for the younger ones to splash around and have fun."

She denied that the existing pool had to turn people away in the summer: "I believe the only time we had to turn swimmers away last summer was when they turned up for the free sessions."

Cllr Burton added: "I believe the experts we employed to draw up these plans have done their best for the people of St Albans and I believe their needs will be adequately served."

A special protest meeting by Pool Too Small is due to be taking place today. See next week's Herts Advertiser for updates on this story.

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