Dave's PMP report Q&A

In 2005 SADC commissioned a report from PMP to provide recommendations for the new Westminster Lodge project.

David's assessment of this report, and of SADC's (lack of) demand projection for the new pool is as follows (presented as a Q&A, also recently published as a letter in the Herts Advertiser):

Q. David, as a professional systems planning and project engineering manager for 40 years, what is the significance of this PMP report?

A. It was commissioned by SADC in 2005 to, amongst other things, look into the new replacement Westminster Lodge main pool demand and come up with recommendations for the pool size. It was the only one of its type requested before a firm SADC Cabinet decision was made in October 2006. No rigorous reassessment later or to this day of demand over the lifetime of the resource appears to have been attempted.

Q. That report looks very impressive. Did it convince you that they had done a professional main pool demand projection, analysis and deduction for the lifetime of the resource and arrive at the right size conclusion?

A. Absolutely not. They failed to follow the three usual steps that professionals would adopt.

Q. What are those three steps?

A. First, you establish the lifetime expected of the resource. With modern 21st-Century engineering I was expecting 40-50 years, not a poor value 25 years. Second, I expected a main pool user demand projection for the lifetime of the resource, and certainly up to year 2035 minimum and realistically to year 2060. Third, from these two steps I expected a rock-solid professional deduction of main pool size for any year up to say year 2035 or realistically year 2050/2060.

Q. And did the report deliver? 

A.Categorically no. When I and other colleagues went through the whole document we found plenty of verbage and glossy pictures but precious little on the crucial main pool future general demand and analysis leading to the correct main pool size deduction.

Q. There was plenty of information in the demand section, surely they had done their homework properly?

A. No they had not. We took a magnifying glass to every word and every line of the whole report but could not find any reference to main pool demand beyond year 2010!

Q. Are you telling me that there's no demand projection and assessment for the crucial 25 years from opening in say 2010 up to 2035 and preferably 2050/60?

A.Yes. Check online for yourself we have repeatedly checked already. There's not a single reference to future demand beyond 2010, no analysis or justification simply a "multi-decade black hole"!

Q. So they can't possibly have produced a reliable professional size deduction and recommendation for a main pool that would adequately serve the people of St Albans over the lifetime of the resource?

A.Precisely. I am staggered that no one noticed this vast multi-decade "black hole" in the report. There were plenty of colourful charts and a few tables but nothing that would begin to convince professionals like myself that they were anywhere near competent to report on such a key issue. They simply did not project into the future by a few decades which was the key requirement of the report in the first place! 

Q. This is appalling. So how did they come up with the main pool recommendation of a 25-metre by eight-lane pool as shown in their executive summary?

A. The report under Strategy Recommendations R7a says "25-metre eight-lane competitive swimming pool with spectator seating". 
This may well gratify a small section of the swimming public but not all us mainsteam general users and learners. There is no analytical projection from it's opening up to, say, 2050 or beyond or justification for such an inadequate size. As we now know it's dead in the water already with the overloads in 2009 and the closure of Bricket Wood Leisure Centre in February 2010! It is the long-term general demand by the people which dictates the pool size, not minority interests.

Q. This beggars belief! Are you now going to tell me that this inadequate report was then approved by the council and the company were paid for it?

A. Yes, thousands of pounds. Not only that but a few months later Capita Symons did a facilities mix for the whole scheme and adopted the 25-metre by eight-lane "black hole option", still with no demand analysis check whatsoever! This was then rubber stamped by various council committees, with apparently no in house forecasting, analytical or engineering expertise of their own. Cabinet, in October 2006, then voted for this flawed, unanalysed and unjustified 25-metre by eight lanes "option" which we are still stuck with to this day.

Q. And this report is supposed to be the bedrock of a scheme now running at £26.776 million of our money for which SADC have applied for planning permission?

A. Sadly yes. The council didn't seem to have an in-house professional of chief engineer calibre to run the whole project who could order then scrutinise all reports properly. So quite frankly, SADC didn't ask the right questions and were taken for a ride. The people of this great city of ours have been misled. They will not be impressed when they revisit this flawed report and verify what I have said here. It's like the Emperor's magic suit of clothes!

Q. The council has a scrutiny committee - in the light of what you have said shouldn't they revisit all this with a formal enquiry?

A. Definitely. Anyone reading this should demand one by writing to the SADC Chief Executive at the council offices or email him at daniel.goodwin@stalbans.gov.uk 

Ask these questions - why is there a multi-decade "black hole" in the report and why didn't SADC pick it up or the scrutiny committee of the time? 

Q. Didn't the Sports England Report of 2008 vindicate the PMP report recommendation?

A. No - it made things worse. It's key conclusion is that in "St Albans there will be a deficiency of swimming pool provision despite the new facility at WLLC".

Q. So let's come right up to date, David. SADC blundered with the key "black hole" PMP report and they closed Bricket Wood Leisure centre on February 28. Where does it leave this inadequate SADC 25-metre by eight-lane main pool proposal in the planning application and the people of St Albans?

A.Wasting £26.776 million of our money and being turned away the year it opens and getting worse forever, because of the popular demand! And breaking news, there are now plans for 150 new homes to be built in King Harry Lane about a kilometre from WLLC soon - adding extra general pressure!

Q. OK David, what would you recommend?

A. I've said it already in my submission to the planning committee dated March 17. SADC go back to the drawing board and analyse the demand professionally for the lifetime of the resource or a minimum 25 years and preferably 40/50 years. You will then find a 25-metre by 10-lane or a configurable 50-metre pool will give you overload-free service for decades. Can SADC say that for their "dead in the water" 25-metre by eight-lane main pool? Categorically no !