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2. AUTHOR . Eur Ing. David L. Gilroy . M.Sc. C.Eng. M.I.E.T


For 37 years I have been a resident of Fleetville ,St.Albans  and for all that time a regular  user of , with my wife and family, the present Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre (WLLC). I am now retired having been a Senior Planning Manager with a major listed telecommunications company over several decades.

For this report I have opted  not to consult any equipment or service suppliers. I have consulted only officially available documents on or off line. I have avoided politicians, consulted with those offering information, the SADC Project Manager, WLLC users and operators and others who have crucial and relevant front line evidence, in order to have the very latest picture of the present Westminster Lodge Main Pool situation.

It specifically addresses SADC’s flawed choice of size of the NWL Main Pool and how in  failing to follow the accepted steps of  project management it resulted in a specification which, if implemented, would be Unfit For Purpose over the anticipated lifetime of the resource. It looks at how this happened and indicates what the pool size actually should be using the latest evidence. No commercial or political vested interests are considered.

Critical conclusions and recommendations are made which must be heeded if this project is to be successful and a certain £26.776 million disaster avoided.


SADC employed two consultants in 2005 and 2006 to look at main pool demand, recommend suitable pool size options and also produce a facility mix for the overall facility. Unfortunately, neither analysed rigorously the demand over the lifetime of the pool to justify any firm choice. However a choice of a 25 metre by 8 lane pool “emerged” in 2006, without any analytical (mathematical or graphical) justification whatsoever, which might as well have been picked from a lucky dip or the spin of a roulette wheel!
This went forward and was finally approved by SADC Cabinet in October 2006. Overload of the present WLLC site several times in summer 2009 now indicates that the proposed size (with a derisory 9 extra places over the present main pool maximum  of 133), if implemented, would not be Fit For Purpose even in opening year of around 2012 never mind the 4-5 decades to follow!
However, analysis shows that a 25 metre by 10 lane pool could be an excellent option to meet the swimming needs of the people of St.Albans and environs for some decades ahead.

My conclusion is that SADC failed conspicuously to task and manage their consultants properly. SADC lacked an in-house engineering presence, long term vision, professionalism and due diligence and got the key result wrong.

My recommendation is that the SADC Planning Application Case No 5/10/0259 in respect of the Main Pool size be rejected out of hand now as Unfit for Purpose and never analytically justified. It also recommends that SADC go back to the drawing board and bring onto their staff someone of Chief Engineer calibre to manage this project properly and professionally.
It is not too late to remedy the fundamental mistakes made. No contracts have been signed or should be and a £26.776 million disaster can and must be avoided.



SADC have been remarkably vague in specifying the expected service life of their proposed facility. A term of only 25 years flies in the face of the St.Albans experience of  public swimming pools over more than a century and when  considering present 21st century technology.

(a) The original St.Albans swimming pool at Cottonmill, opened in 1905, is still serving us and specifically the St.Albans Sub Aqua Club, some one hundred and  five (105) years on!
(b) The present WLLC was opened in 1971 and will continue to serve us until at least year 2012 – the proposed opening year of the new facility. That would be a lifetime of forty one (41) years but this could in my view, if required, be extended to forty five (45) or fifty (50) years.
(c) I congratulate the planners of 1971 for building in water space growth for 38 years at the present WLLC.
(d) I cannot say the same for the present SADC team which lost sight of what the project was all about in the first place.
(e) I therefore have to criticise the SADC team for a lack of vision, engineering and analytical forecasting expertise – vital in a mixed multi-facility complex project of this nature. This caused this SADC project team to arrive at a wrong pool size decision – one that this great City could long regret.


In reference [8] the Health and Safety Executive recommends that a maximum figure for the number of users allowed access to a  main pool at any one time be the area of the water space in square metres divided by 3 .

For the present WLLC this is 399.6 square metres divided by 3 =133.
For the proposed NWL main pool of 25 metres by 8 lanes (17 metres) this is 425 square metres divided by 3 = 142 (a derisory increase over the present WLLC maximum  of only 9 persons).
For discussion later, a 25 metre by 10 lane main pool would have an area of  531 square metres giving a MBL of 177 – an increase of 44 persons on the present WLLC main pool maximum. A good choice as it transpires, for the future.


6.3.1 General Public Demand – Public daytime including holiday and weekend sessions:
Quite simply, the MBL has been exceeded and the management, for health and safety reasons, has no option but to refuse entry until demand, possibly hours later, has subsided. This occurred several times in Summer of 2009. Testimony on 
Remedy: Increased main pool water space.

6.3.2 Term-time General Public Demand plus School Swimming Lesson Demand:
School co-ordinators handling bookings for School half hour swimming lessons occasionally have to turn schools away because all the best half hour slots are taken and have been for years .
Remedy: Increased main pool water space.

6.3.3 Evening demand:
See the WLLC Pool Timetable [7]. Male swimmers of the general public after 1930 hours are turned away 5 or 6 evenings per week because of club bookings blocking out the whole main pool. As recently as 12 March 2010 two different Clubs were contesting the occupancy of the Main Pool on site at the same time! 
Remedy: Increased main pool water space.

6.4 OVERVIEW OF EVENTS 2005-2010

I and WLLC swimming colleagues have reviewed various online SADC documents and cabinet papers from 2005 to 2009 together with consultants reports by PMP Ltd in Dec 2005 [1] and Capita Symonds in September 2006 [2-5]. SADC realized in the early 2000s that a replacement for WLLC, built in 1971, would be required by the early 2010s. They homed in on a site next to the present WLLC . Project Board Authorisation of 7 October 2005 took forward two 25 metre main pool options (Options 4 and 7) without any formal technical justification whether they would meet the demands of the people of St.Albans and environs up to years say 2052 –2062. A report by PMP Ltd [1]  mentions a 25 metre by 8 lane option without any professional demand analysis or deduction. The latest date in it (Attachment 1) is only 2010 – but the expected pool lifetime is perhaps 4-5 decades beyond that! What relevance and use is that? Where was the continuous line demand projection curve plus analysis through 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 and 2060? It simply didn't exist!

In September 2006, Capita Symonds in 4 voluminous reports [2-6] seized on the 25 metre by 8 lane “option”, again without analytical  justification but added “ASA competition standard”.

And so the “favoured dimension” went forward, finally firmed into a cabinet decision in October 2006. However, no one in the process then or to this day actually justified rigorously that the "25 metre by  8 laner" would meet the swimming demands of the people of St.Albans and environs up to  say 2052-2062. And it won’t! The closure of Bricket Wood Leisure Centre on 28 February 2010 immediately placed extra demand on the WLLC Main Pool. Coupled with this the known population growth projection of St.Albans makes it obvious that the NWL 25 metre by 8 lane pool will be overloaded in its first year of operation, if it was ever, unjustifiably, implemented. 

There were two key events in 2009 from the customer viewpoint.

One was the 3 Week Public Consultation of Summer 2009. The other was WLLC main pool going into overload several times and people being turned away.


This was regarded by many WLLC users as an insult to their intelligence in that people were being asked to compare the same flawed option. Both options quoted a 25 metre by 8 lane main pool with various other facility options. As one user summed it up – “We are being asked either way to spend millions on the same undersized main pool option but given a choice of either the white tiles or the green”.
This the oldest survey ploy in the book, guarantees the surveyor the right answer by engineering the question and it impresses no one. A so-called public “survey” like this is neither justification or authorisation. SADC’s due diligence has to be questioned on this issue.


I, together with other users of WLLC Main Pool, witnessed it full and customers being turned away on more than one occasion. One weekday afternoon, for example, I witnessed the Main Pool overloaded and 10 people in a queue out the main door being turned away by reception staff. This equates to a peak demand of 143 persons – one person more than the new pool MBL of 142 . This, 3 years ahead of the new pool’s supposed opening, is a calamitous situation. To this day, it beggars belief that SADC failed to react to it, particularly the NWL planning team. They implied by email to me that it was operations department – nothing to do with them. Enough said.
It subsequently transpired that SADC do not require Main Pool overload figures to be recorded or reported by the site operator – so ignorance is bliss indeed!
To the best of my knowledge, the site operator is still not required to record or report Main Pool overload occurrences destined to occur this year and getting worse as the years go by!
Full overload testimonies of Summer 2009 overloads can be found on 


This was formally applied for on 24th February 2010. So outraged were many WLLC users about the total inadequacy of the Main Pool proposal that a website was founded to contest the application No 5/10/ 0259 and the general overall management of this multi-million pound project.


The  SADC team never justified by rigorous continuous line demand projection and analysis that a 25 metre by 8 lane main pool would meet the swimming and leisure needs of the people of St.Albans and surrounding district from projected opening in year 2012 up  to the years say 2052-2062 .In the light of the latest evidence as at March 2010, with Bricket Wood Leisure Centre closed, it is quite obvious that public demand will exceed the existing 133 people maximum at WLLC and will do the same to the NWL pool proposal allowing 142 people, by proposed opening year 2012.
Where is the growth capacity for (say) years 2020, 2030 ,2040, 2050 and, quite realistically 2060?  This, against the relentless growth of the local population, the excellent Government Swimming Scheme and the effect of “new site” membership sales packages!

Using the latest evidence as at end 2009 and ONS figures, I have analysed then concluded that a 25 metre by ten (10) lane Main Pool would meet the swimming and leisure demands of the people of St.Albans and surrounding district without overload for some decades ahead.
SADC simply cannot make such a statement for their “dead in the water” 25 metre by 8 lane "lucky dip".

The SADC proposal of a 25 metre by 8 lane main pool was never rigorously  analysed or JUSTIFIED over the lifetime of the resource. It would, if implemented, be Unfit For Purpose in opening year. Despite the massive resources at their disposal, SADC "talked" their flawed proposal through various stages and no independent agency seems to have pointed out to them that the early thinking in 2005/6 has been totally superseded by the latest demands as highlighted in detail in section 6.4 of the main report. 


This report shows beyond doubt that the present NWL Main Pool proposal is flawed and Planning Permission should be refused. This is on the grounds that there is now irrefutable evidence that it will not be FIT FOR THE PURPOSE of meeting the swimming demands of the people of St. Albans and surrounding area up to the years, say 2052 – 2062. 
I recommend that the SADC call a halt to detailed planning of the Main Pool part of the specification and bring in an independent professional analyst to JUSTIFY analytically what size is really required in the light of all the present available evidence.
I recommend SADC now do what they should have done years ago – employ in house someone of Chief Engineer calibre to  professionally drive this project ahead to the people’s satisfaction.

I recommend that SADC and their advisers set aside any  preconceived ideas, agendas and vested interests they may have had and have the courage to admit that to implement their present proposal, in the light of today’s evidence, will be a £26.776 million mistake – unlikely to be popular generally or with the users of the NWL. It would be a shabby legacy to mark the London Olympics of 2012 and one that could make the City of St.Albans the laughing stock of the civic and leisure world.
I recommend all involved refocus on what this project should be all about – getting it right to deliver the flagship facility fit for our children, grandchildren and theirs yet to be born. It is not too late – no requests for tenders have been issued and no contracts have been let – indeed they should not be until the key analysis is done properly now and approved. The present WLLC, well planned in 1971, can serve a few years longer yet whilst SADC redo the design professionally.


I wish to acknowledge the considerable assistance of the following for information and support given for me to write this report:

SADC NWL Project Manager.
Management and operational staff at WLLC.
WLLC user colleagues.
My wife Ingrid and family.



Eur Ing David L Gilroy .M.Sc. C.Eng. MIET.


1. PMP Ltd Report December 2005.
2. Capita Symonds Sports and Leisure Consultancy ,Assessment of Supply        and Demand .Final Report September 2006.
3. Capita Symonds Sports and Leisure Consultancy,Final Report Appendix A-D ,September 2006.
4. Capita Symonds Sports and Leisure Consultancy,Final Report Appendix E-Q, September 2006.
5. Capita Symonds Sports and Leisure Consultancy,Final Report Appendix R-FF, September 2006 .
6. Sports England Sports and Facilities Strategy 2007 – 2016 ,Strategic Leisure Ltd , March 2008.
7. SADC.WLLC Main Pool Timetable ,Termtime 2009.
8. Health and Safety Executive .Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools.
9. SADC Meeting of 7 June 2005.
10. SADC Cabinet Meeting 1 November 2005.
11. SADC Decision of October 2006 . 


1. [1] MtF Demand Model – Part A – Demand Side .
2. [5] Capita Symonds Final Report Pg 63.
3. [6] Hertfordshire Overview Page 30.
4. [7] WLLC Main Pool Term time Timetable.


WLLC. Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre.
SADC. St.Albans District Council.
SE. Sports England.
CS. Capita Symonds Ltd.
HSE. Health and Safety Executive.
MBL. Maximum Bather Load.
ONS. Office of National Statistics.
GSC. Government Swimming Scheme.
NWL. New Westminster Lodge (Leisure Centre).
LC plc. Leisure Connection plc – present operators of WLLC.

Dated 16 March 2010.

Mike M,
1 Jul 2010, 08:59
Mike M,
1 Jul 2010, 09:00
Mike M,
1 Jul 2010, 09:01
Mike M,
1 Jul 2010, 09:01
Mike M,
1 Jul 2010, 09:02