A FEASIBILITY study is examining if Coventry could keep its 50 metre Olympic swimming pool following massive public protest against its closure – or if a new one is built “in the region”.
It will also examine if a 50m pool could be retained on another site in Coventry or the wider region, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for sports, Abdul Khan told the Observer.
HIs words prompted objections from Conservative opponents who insisted any new 50m pool must be within the city’s boundary.
Around 11,000 people signed one of the largest petitions ever received by the council against proposals to close the Olympic pool at Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, Fairfax Street, city centre, by 2019, due to high maintenance costs.
In September, councillors voted to make £36m available in this year’s budget for plans for a new water park and smaller 25m pool in council-owned building Christchurch House in New Union Street.
The ruling Labour cabinet had invited the City of Coventry Swimming Club to consider an “asset transfer”, with the club taking over the running of the Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre and 50m pool without on-going council taxpayer subsidies.
It was agreed council officers would help the club explore whether grants could be secured from other sources.
Cllr Khan said a feasibility study was now being set up, to be lead by the national governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association.
His update came in a written response this week to a question from Tory councillor David Skinner at last week’s full council meeting about progress on the plan.
Council leader Ann Lucas said Cllr Skinner should have notified Cllr Khan in advance of raising the question if he wanted a detailed response.
To much hilarity in the chamber and accusations of new levels of council secrecy, Cllr Khan responded in the broadcast meeting: “We met earlier on in the toilets and you could have raised it with me there, but you chose not to.”
Cllr Khan’s written response reads: “On 9 September 2014, Coventry City Council approved investment of £36.7m in a city centre destination sports and leisure facility, including waterpark and 25m swimming pool.
“The council further agreed to work with the City of Coventry Swimming Club and other partners to explore the feasibility of keeping a 50m pool within the city.
“… This work will include detailed technical and financial appraisals, along with a strategic justification of a 50m pool within the city and, potentially, the region.”
Asked for clarification, Cllr Khan said: “Staying at the current site with modern facilities is on the table, as is somewhere in the region, if that could be supported financially by independent sources. If so, there is no way we would be opposed to that.”
Tory opposition leader John Blundell said: “We’re looking for a 50 metre pool to be developed in Coventry, not the region. We want to know what progress has been made and what the terms of reference are for the feasibility study.”
He said developing a 50m pool rather than one half the size at Christchurch House should remain an option, as well as retaining the 50m pool at its current location, with external funding.