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Fury as plans revealed to close Bingley pool again in shake-up
6:00am Wednesday 11th September 2013 in News
Councillors, community workers and schools are also against the proposals which have been called fanciful, ludicrous and a real blow to the town.
The 86-year-old facility is one of four set to close in a huge Council shake-up of the district’s sports facilities.
The other three earmarked for closure are Bowling, Richard Dunn Sports Centre and Queensbury pools. Each will be replaced by four new centres, but these will be in different areas.
Chairman of Bingley Amateur Swimming Club (BASC) Geoff Killock said: “We’re going to fight this. They can’t let this happen. They should be putting money into the pool or building a new one,” he said.
The Council plans to build one new, large public swimming pool in the city centre and three new community swimming pools across Bradford – one in the south, one in the south west and one in the north of the city.
It means Bingley will lose its swimming sports centre.
Mr Killock and ward councillors said they only found out about the plans when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus.
He said the closure could lead to the club, which has about 160 members, having to fold.
“That would be the concern. We’d fight tooth and nail to find a way round it. We would have to find another home, but Bingley wouldn’t have a club based there,” he said.
BASC meets twice a week at Bingley Pool and also organises an annual swimming gala which 250 to 300 children from 20 schools compete in.
“It’s absolutely criminal. What I really would like is somebody from the Council to come and actually talk to the people who use the pool. They really would hang their heads in shame. Somebody needs to see what we do, but they just sit behind their Council desks.
“We’re ordinary people doing a job as volunteers and the people who are paid to so this thing are frankly not interested in talking to the people who do it,” he said.
“We train there two times a week and would like to train there more if we could. Ironically, we can’t get the pool as often as we’d like it.
“It’s essential. We get kids coming two or three times a week. We get swimmers who just swim for fun, they come and meet their pals, but they’re not interested in being the next Olympic champion. But we have others who want to swim and compete and do their best.”
Mr Killock said BASC also feeds swimmers to the City of Bradford elite swimming club, so that would suffer too.
The club also meets at Bingley Grammar School and Woodhouse Grove School in Apperley Lane, Bradford, weekly.
“The closure would leave us with Bingley Grammar School, which to be honest is deteriorating and on a knife edge with no money having been put in it for tens of years, so really it would leave us with nothing.”
He said money the Council had recently spent on Bingley Pool’s Youth Cafe was cash down the drain.
Councillor John Pennington (Con) said: “When you’re in opposition in City Hall, all too frequently we have to read the T&A to find out what’s going on.
“This is at a time just after we’ve had considerable investment in Bingley Youth Cafe in the basement of the swimming pool. It just proves to me that there’s never any joined-up thinking whatsoever.
“If they’re closing it, they’re going to have to see where they can relocate that too. They have also just relocated the town centre manager to Bingley Pool as well.”
Coun Mark Shaw (Con) added: “It’s come out of the blue. It would be a shame to lose such a prominent feature from the town centre. I think it could do with some investment, it’s starting to get a little shabby, it would be nice if they did something to keep it open instead.”
Fellow ward and party councillor David Heseltine said he was disgusted with the “fanciful” idea.
“We’re all about trying to get people to be healthy and do things, then you expect all the people in Bingley and Bingley Rural areas to trail over to Bradford. Even from Eldwick to Shipley Pool you’ve got Fox Corner or Saltaire Roundabout,” he said.
“The idea of community pools is that they’re actually serving communities, but they seem to want to rip one out of an established community.”
Bingley Youth Cafe has been based at the pool since March 2011. It is run by Shipley and Bingley Voluntary Services whose chief executive officer Paul Stephens said: “It’s something that’s popular with young people and if that were to disappear, which it could do if there aren’t any other suitable premises to use, then some of the key issues and reasons it was initially set up for could return. It was initially set-up because of things like young people drinking in the park or doing drugs, and some of these issues are being dealt with now.”
More than £100,000 has been spent on converting the empty shell of a basement into a well-ventilated and suitable place for the cafe which has worked with more than 500 children.
The pool, which was built in 1927, was threatened with closure in 2008.
At that time a campaign to keep it open by local people, the swimming club and MP Philip Davies was backed by the parents of Olympic swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, who live in Bingley. Kathleen Moorhouse said it would be a “big shame” if it were to close.
Several schools also use the pool. The headteacher of Eldwick Primary School, Janice Kershaw, said it was one of her pupils’ favourite lessons and teaching swimming was a vital life skill.
“A lot of them are involved in swimming club and a lot of children go for swimming lessons in Bingley. There’s an awful lot of swimming work that goes on and that wouldn’t happen if there’s no pool there,” Mrs Kershaw said.
A review carried out by Sport England into Bradford’s nine local-authority run pools revealed that some of them were no longer fit for purpose, with outmoded facilities and high running costs.
It also highlighted that some of the district was very poorly served, in comparison to other areas.
Coun Andrew Thornton, Bradford Council’s executive member for sport, said in particular there was an over-provision of sports facilities in the Aire Valley and an under-provision in Bradford, so his department had taken the decision to build all four new sports centres within the city.
He said: “The reality is, the concentrations of population and housing both now and the projections of where population and housing are going to be in future, doesn’t match with where we have currently got provision.
“The lack of provision is predominantly around Bradford.”
In contrast, there was an “overlap” of provision in the Aire Valley, and he said he expected people in Bingley to be able to go to centres in Shipley or Keighley.
But Mr Killock said that was “rubbish”. Shipley Pool, he said, has no provision to offer the club a regular slot and the idea of people travelling to the city centre to swim was “ludicrous.”
Bingley has a 23m by 10m pool with some spectator seating, a sauna and slipper baths. It also has a fitness suite, which last week the Council described as “small but popular” when it announced the pool would run extra sessions during the refurbishment of Shipley Pool, which closed on Monday for maintenance work.
Coun Thornton said the Council would pay for the new centres to be built, before closing and selling the old sites to recoup much of the money.
He said: “The reason why we are doing it that way is so we can make sure we are able to open the new facilities before the existing, older and outdated facilities, that are in the wrong places, are closed.”
And he said the new centres would offer at least as many facilities as the old ones, if not more.
He said: “The city centre facility will have a 25-metre, eight-lane main pool, a learner pool and a diving pool, and then associated games and studio space. There isn’t a need for big sports halls in a city centre location.”
The Council is setting aside £17.5 million from its 2014-15 capital spending budget for the project.
Coun Thornton said the new-builds would be so energy efficient, they would save the Council an estimated £1.7 million a year.
In comparison, he said the four centres earmarked for closure were “not fit for purpose”, and described Richard Dunn in particular as a “black hole” in the Council’s finances.
The new plan will go before the Council’s Executive on Tuesday. If approved, a business case would be drawn up, with work expected to take place in 2015.
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