News that, as part of Derby City Council’s budget consultation process, Moorways swimming pool is proposed to close from April 2015 has prompted a charitable trust to step up its plans to build a new pool.
Lonsdale Swimming & Sports Trust Ltd has run the 45-year-old Lonsdale Pool in Mickleover since 2007 following the site and surrounding land being sold by the University of Derby for housing.
Since then, the pool has been the base for a number of local schools and clubs, as a venue for swimming lessons for about 600 children a week and for members of the public but the ageing structure is becoming too expensive to run and needs replacing.
The pool’s extensive running costs are currently supported with £100,000 a year by the developers building Varsity Grange on the former university site under a Section 106 agreement.
This agreement will finish in 2025 at which point, the £1 million received by then will have been completely used up keeping the current pool open rather than being an important lever to attract grant funding and finance. The pool will therefore be closed with a community facility lost forever.
Having been so far unsuccessful in finding a suitable site, the Trust’s volunteer directors say their plans are now even more urgent to bridge, what could be a three-year gap between the closure of Moorways and the completion of a proposal for a new 50m pool complex .
And they say that the replacement pool, which is part of the city-wide leisure strategy, would be vital to ‘keep Derby swimming’.
Lonsdale Trust, which also runs Gayton Pool in Littleover, need to find a 1.5 acre site to build a new £4 million 2,500 sq m leisure centre with an eight-lane 25m length pool, a 200-seat viewing area and potentially a second training pool. They also plan to include a gym and fitness studio in the centre.
Lonsdale Trust Chair Ian Cotter explained that the Trust had been working with Derby City Council to find a new site, though despite everyone being supportive, had so far been unsuccessful and said that time was running out to find a suitable plot of land in the Derby area.
Mr Cotter said: “Our search for a new site for Lonsdale Pool is now even more urgent if we are to ‘Keep Derby Swimming’.
“We know from experience just how expensive it is to maintain and run a swimming pool so we appreciate the dilemma that the city council faces regarding the current proposals for the future of Moorways.
“Our plans however potentially provide an element of the short term solution to bridge the potential gap between the proposal to close the pool and the proposal for a new structure being built.”
Mr Cotter continued: “Lonsdale Pool is fast becoming unfit for purpose. The ageing structure and heating system means that it is becoming increasingly inefficient and costly to run.
“It is also tucked away in the housing development. This means that there is no space to build a new pool on this site in Bishop Lonsdale Way and it is difficult to attract new users.
“Lonsdale Pool is cited as an important part of the city leisure strategy and there is a proven need for our new facility to run alongside the 50m pool planned by the city council.
“We do not however have the capacity at the current pool to accommodate the groups and individuals who currently use Moorways due to the limitations of the plant and equipment, the size of changing rooms and the restricted access to the site and building.
“Our new pool could therefore be an important buffer in the city and would provide the sporting and recreational pool facilities needed for the whole community but time is running out.
“Once we have secured a site, we can embark on our 40-week building programme but we need the continued support of the city council and potential development partners to ensure that this happens.
“Our aim is to build an energy efficient pool that will have the capacity to support Derby Phoenix swimming club, expand the use by schools and families with swimming lessons and increase the capacity for local people to enjoy.”
Doug Whitlam, President of Derby Phoenix Swimming Club which is based at Lonsdale Pool, lent his support for the Trust’s bid to find a new site.
The swimming club has been established for 50 years and, through the Derbyshire Swimming Association structure, develops young people who then have the chance to develop into the elite squads such as Deventio.
Mr Whitlam said: “The potential three year gap between the closure of Moorways and the new development by the city council could put competitive swimming in Derby back ten years and will be further exacerbated by the threat hanging over Lonsdale Pool.
“Derby and Derbyshire have an excellent track record in producing swimming medal winners including Molly Renshaw and Adam Peaty.
“However, we need good facilities to teach young children to swim, give them the opportunities to develop as competitive swimmers and create the environment for local people to enjoy swimming with all the health benefits that this form of exercise brings.”
Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture Cllr Alison Martin commented: “We are meeting and working with pool users and partners in the city to maximise pool availability at this difficult time.”