Key Points

  • Demand for the present WLLC main pool has already reached overload. Safety concerns meant that queuing customers had to be turned away on several occasions during the summer of 2009 because the pool reached its statutory maximum bather load.
  • The present WLLC main pool is 33 metres by 6 lanes and has a 133 person maximum capacity. The proposed new pool is 25 metres by 8 lanes, 142 bathers maximum. This means the new pool adds space for just 9 extra bathers before the limit is reached and customers have to be turned away.
  • Given the district’s projected population expansion and the ongoing and excellent government sponsored swimming participation schemes, and given that the new facility will open in 2012 at the earliest, it is difficult to see how the new Main Pool will avoid overload even in its opening year, let alone by the end of its projected lifetime (see our visual guide to water space in the district).
  • SADC made its choice for the new 25m pool in a cabinet meeting back in 2006. They have quoted two external reports in support of this decision, but the figures quoted by the SADC team only included projections extending up to 2010 and 2016. Planning permission has not been granted and construction has not yet even been tendered, but it is already 2010. It is difficult to see that SADC have demonstrated any significant professional planning competence, due diligence or duty of care in this matter. No competent in-house forecasting, analytical or engineering presence appears to have been involved.
  • The need for a modern replacement for WLLC is both widely accepted and welcomed. The present WLLC facility was built in 1971 and it is a testament to the competence of the original WLLC planners that it is only now hitting maximum capacity after almost 40 years of service. The new £26.776 million project specifies only a 25 year lifetime. This seems like poor value in comparison, and if the new main pool size is not adequately specified from the outset the centre may have to be replaced much sooner than that. Swimming pools are not easily extended!
  • The SADC team have stuck to their 2006 pool size decision despite the WLLC pool overloads in 2009. SADC appear to have been unaware that the overloads had taken place, and when informed simply disregarded them. Any competent in-house planner would surely consider these developments as an alarm bell, signalling an opportunity to reassess before construction.
  • SADC undertook a consultation exercise during 2009 presenting two facility designs both featuring the same 25m by 8 lane main pool. One of these designs was fairly basic, the other more extensive with added bling. We were asked to choose which of the two we preferred. It is an insult to our intelligence for SADC now to assert that this consultation has demonstrated significant public support for their intentions.The result was designed into the question. Either way people chose the same flawed main pool option. This kind of behaviour further weakens confidence in the SADC team’s regard for due diligence.