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In the Press: "a 16-storey building painted in pink and purple spots"

posted 22 May 2010, 03:21 by Mike M   [ updated 22 May 2010, 17:44 ]
The Herts Advertiser this week has three pool related letters (see under Letters Edition May 20). I include only extracts below.

S Webber writes (under ''Premature closure") about the dubious shut-down of Bricket Wood leisure centre:

[...] One of the reasons frequently proffered for the closure is that use was declining, but this situation was mainly caused by the protracted threat of closure over many months and by the running down of the centre. [...] I feel that the people of Bricket Wood have been very poorly served, and I feel sad when I walk through the HSBC grounds past the now defunct leisure centre, to see such a pleasantly situated and erstwhile excellent local facility going to waste.

Vanessa Gregory writes a wide ranging letter (under "Election aftermath") covering the recent planning meeting, its repercussions, the Bricket Wood closure and the broader political issues the handling of these issues raises within St Albans:

[...] Cllr Martin Frearson denies all knowledge, despite being joint editor of an election publication, showing a photo of him and others stating he was inspecting the starting of the works on the new swimming pool [...]
[...] we learnt that despite being closed to the public in February, Bricket Wood pool was still being maintained at the expense of the taxpayer, as there is still four years to run on the lease held by the council with no early termination date agreed. Somehow this represented, we are told by the council, a saving towards the new Westminster Lodge centre. I don't think this news, will gladden the hearts of all those who enjoyed the facilities and were heartbroken when it was shut and told to go to Watford instead. [...]
[...] Also we learnt at the planning referral meeting that a small matter of the Abbey Theatre holding a lease on land on which the council wish to build is still unresolved. [...]
[...] I assure fellow residents it gives me no pleasure in condemning so roundly certain councillors. I observe many council meetings and I know there are many good and honourable men and women of all parties who serve this city and district well. The problem comes, I believe, when they put party politics first and their allegiance to St Albans second. 

and Mrs J M Seabrook writes (under "Pool size again") an excellent and scathing account of the recent planning meeting:

[...] What a farce! At least the committee's vice chairman, to his credit, had decided that he should play no part in the proceedings and had withdrawn before the meeting took place. Quite frankly, my impression from their contributions at the meeting was that the Lib Dem members of the Committee would have voted for the proposal had it been a 16-storey building painted in pink and purple spots! What on earth has happened to principles, common sense and sound value-for-money judgement, as opposed to pure party politics? [...]
[...council's "Investing in Leisure" leaflet ] cleverly side-steps the fact that the premature closure of the Bricket Wood pool has reduced the area's available swimming facilities by considerably more than the increased pool area quoted. [...] All in all, the meeting was an example of phoney democracy and was a complete and utter waste of time and money. Sadly the arrogance and intransigence demonstrated at the meeting means that we are going to be stuck with an improved, in some respects, but nevertheless costly inadequate facility for the foreseeable future.

To partially illustrate Mrs Seabrook's letter I have created the image accompanying this post. This is my 'artist impression' of what the new building would look like were it to be painted in pink and purple spots. However, to avoid any confusion, I wish to stress that the spots illustrated above are not part of the current design.

Also this week The Review publishes an excellent email in the "Your Opinion" section of the print edition (can't find an on-line version at present) from Max Schroeder under "Plans do not fit needs of city" also describing the infamous planning meeting:

[...] the council's legal lackey dug out a dubious precedent that enabled the biased, substitute chairman of the planning committee Councillor Chris Brazier - a Cabinet [...] pro scheme member - supposed "impartial, independent thinking individual" - to control proceedings. [...]
[...] The least he could have done was to have given an undertaking to all those present that the "planners" would revisit the suggestion that the main pool should be recosted [...] [the] proposition was going to cost a massive £27 million at current estimated costings. At present the plans do not fit the needs of our city.

And, finally, The Review also carries a piece (see New Westminster Lodge in only two years) reporting Council's announcement that work could begin on the new build as soon as December of this year:

[...] Council leader Robert Donald said:
"[...] This leisure centre will provide a really top quality, state of the art, new facility which generations of St Albans residents can enjoy for years to come [...]"

To which we suggest he should add "unless they want to go swimming... in which case, as the years pass, they may find themselves forming a longer and longer queue... or unless they want to go diving, or use flumes... in which case they will just have to go somewhere else".