At the Vale full council meeting on 11 May 16, Cabinet member for Leisure, Cllr Charlotte Dickson, was away. Today she provided a written answer to the question submitted by Cllr Helen Pighills.
(I’m told the complete re-do of the Hinksey Outdoor pool, including adding a beach area to make it more accessible, cost about £300,000. I’m trying to verify that. Abingdon residents have formally complained that Cabinet haven’t done what they promised.)
In the consultation on Abbey Meadows the public were overwhelmingly in support of Scenario A: ‘A place to swim and play’
The consultation leaflet stated ‘We would aim to carry out essential repairs to the swimming pool and changing rooms’.
Furthermore under ‘Improvements we can make’, the leaflet listed ‘Repair the outdoor swimming pool’ with ‘refurbish the changing rooms’ appearing in the ‘Additional improvements we will consider’.
Why then does the recently issued cabinet decision include refurbishment of the changing rooms with no mention of essential repairs to and upgrading of the pool including its ageing pool tank and heating/filtration system?
We listened to the consultation feedback and are working to deliver Scenario A – a place to swim and play. The outdoor pool is opening to the public on Saturday 28 May and officers worked with GLL over the winter to improve the heating system, undertake an industrial clean and paint the pool tanks. We have an ongoing maintenance budget to carry out any other essential works – as we committed to in the consultation leaflet.
The pool is clearly important to residents, which is why we are keeping it open. The changing rooms are an integral part of the pool complex and, therefore, need to meet health and safety standards. As the changing rooms are often the first area that people use and last area they leave, it is vital that they provide a pleasant environment. A refurbished changing facility will also provide a much more attractive approach to the complex, which in turn will enhance the whole area.
Refurbishing the changing rooms was ranked as the second most popular improvement by people taking part in the consultation, so there is clearly public support for this to happen, which is why we’ve selected it as a priority.
As well as doing what we can to refurbish the pool over the past winter, officers are working to procure contractors for the play area and building work improvements in order for these works to take place next winter in an attempt to minimise the disruption caused to residents and visitors.
However, we are also aware that there are thousands of visitors to Abbey Meadow every year who do not use the pool, and we have taken them into account. One of the key aspirations of the project is to improve the wider Abbey Meadow area so that it attracts more visitors throughout the year. To completely refurbish the pool would cost in excess of £520,000, not including costs associated with survey work and professional design fees. This would not leave any funding for changes elsewhere in Abbey Meadow, which will be key to bringing more people to the area throughout the year. Given the available budget, we believe that it is fairer, along with keeping the pool open and refurbishing the changing rooms, to carry out as many of the other top ten improvements throughout Abbey Meadow as possible for the thousands of visitors who spend time in this area.
We are actively seeking additional funding so that we can achieve some of the other suggestions. We have already built into the budget some £45,000 of section 106 money from the Old Goal development earmarked for play equipment and this will allow the available budget to go further.