Last throw for St Albans leisure centre’s pool struggle

A LAST-ditch bid to persuade the council’s cabinet to go for a larger pool at the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre went through on the casting vote of a committee chairman this week.

The vote of Cllr Julian Daly, chair of the overview and scrutiny (O&S) committee reviewing the pool provision in the scheme, means that cabinet will be asked again to look at increasing the size of the facility from eight lanes to 10.

But a statement released by sport and leisure portfolio holder, Cllr Anthony Rowlands, suggests that the arguments have fallen on deaf ears.

The O&S committee was called to hear representations from the campaign group PoolTooSmall and other concerned parties about the size of the pool which, at 25m x 8 lanes, is considered too small for a developing district like St Albans.

Cllr Daly said that one of the PoolTooSmall group’s main arguments was that the proposal was not future-proofed and increasing the size to 10 lanes as O&S was recommending was not much in terms of the loss of the pool at Bricket Wood and the rest of the provision in the district which was two and a half pools short.

He went on: “My view is that closing Bricket Wood hasn’t helped and we have yet to see the effect of that in the summer period.”

He said that PoolTooSmall might only be a small group but it had come from nowhere and he had received more letters on the subject than on any other issue during his 13 years as a councillor.

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Cllr Daly also pointed out that even though the Westminster Lodge scheme got planning permission in April, there was nothing to prevent the interior of the building being changed to incorporate a larger pool if cabinet so wished.

But Cllr Rowlands, who was at the O&S meeting, said the arguments against an eight lane, 25 metre pool were flawed and a detailed review of the PoolTooSmall arguments by a company of leading leisure consultants had provided “conclusive proof” that the council’s proposals were correct.

He went on: “We are aiming to build a top-quality leisure centre with a much wider range of leisure facilities than at the existing facility for use by people of all ages and abilities. I have met with remarkably few people who agree with the pool campaigners.”

Cllr Rowlands maintained it would be wrong for cabinet to change course simply because a small number of people did not like the pool size.

He added: “Most people approve of the council’s scheme and want us to press on with the project and not delay.”