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Feedback from February and March 2010

Mr E.C. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (31st March)...

Dear Sir/Madam

I write to raise my objection to the planned new pool at Westminster Lodge, in St Albans. As a keen swimmer and triathlete who uses the pool regularly, I believe that an opportunity is being missed to develop a first class pool. The proposed new pool simply does not meet the demand of current users and will not meet future demand.

I urge the planning committee to reject the proposal and reconsider the development - a wider 25m pool or a even a 50m pool would be a much better proposition for the citizens of St Albans, their children and their grandchildren

Mr and Mrs D&A G. of St. Albans write to the planning department (31st March)...

Case Number 5/10/0259
I wish to register my concern that the proposed new swimming pool for the new St Alban's leisure centre will be unfit for purpose within a short period of time if built to the proposed specification.
The proposed pool size will not accomodate the growing population in the coming decades.

Now is a wonderful opportunity to plan a pool 25metres in length with ten lanes, diving and teaching areas.   
With regard to the heavy investment necessary to build the facility, its design deserves further consultation with the best professionals to ensure the facility is suitable to encourage fitness, fun and competition for all categories of swimmers and without the problem of overcrowding.  
I propose that the council delay and reassess the plans as they stand at present.  Although I reluctantly made a choice when offered the two design proposals, I stated then that the swimming facility was falling short of the water -provision that the city of St Albans both needs and deserves. 

Mr S.M. of Bricket Wood writes to the planning department (30th March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse
I would like to express my concern about the proposed plans for the new Westminster Lodge. As a regular user of the pool for 16 years and a NPLQ lifeguard I feel that the proposed absence of diving facilities and flumes will be sorely missed by our children and grandchildren.
These have been a popular feature of the pool  for many years to such an extent that you often queue for 10 minutes for a 10 second dive/ride.
These features are great fun and give greater water confidence to the young people.
In addition with the  closure of Bricket Wood I cannot see how the proposed pool will meet the demand for swimming particularly in the summer as I am led to believe that the new pool will only increase the bather load by a handful. I can assure you as an NPLQ lifeguard competent swimmers will have no use for a larger learner pool.

Mr A.T. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (30th March)...

Case Number 5/10/0259

We have to have a larger pool. The planned 'new' pool will be a lot smaller than the one we have as we used to have 2 pools- BRICKET WOOD.
The people and clubs that used to swim at  Bricket Wood have not disappeared, they are now all crowding into Westminster Lodge. Have there been any 'number' studies done since Bricket Wood closed?
We have to have 2x 25m pools and a learner pool at least.
When clubs are using the pool it would be lovely if the general public could still swim.
When there are 2/3 lots of school children swimming it would be lovely for the general public to be able to swim in a 25m pool rather than the 15m we are allocated during the day.
It would be lovely to be able to book a children's pool party and still the pool be open for the general public.
How can you say you are building a pool for the next 25 years. Surely 40 years plus for the amount of money you are spending.
You can extend the Gym, dance floors and coffee bars at a later date but you have to get the pool size correct.

Ms C.S.-L. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (28th March)...

To the Planning Officer, 

I am emailing to raise my concerns and objections in regards to the proposed new pool size for the new leisure centre. Case No. 5/10/0259.

I am a regular swimmer at Westminster Lodge Leisure centre and often the pool seems full. The proposed swimming pool does not seem to take into account the fact that Bricket Wood leisure centre has closed down, as it only has provisions for 9 extra swimming. This means that at peak times customers may and most probably will be turned away.

It seems ricidulous to me that whilst building a new leisure centre and swimming pool, it does not cater for many more swimmers. Would it not be of greater use to invest more money now and build a larger pool which caters for more swimmers and will be a proper facility?

Therefore I wish to reject the proposed plans as unfit for purpose and propose that the pool size is reviewed and re-planned, so that it is fit for use for the forseable future. 

Mr P.W. of Park Street writes to the planning department (28th March, original emphasis)...

Ref: Case No 5/10/0259
Attention of Mr A Moorhouse.
Sir, I reject your planning application for the Westminster lodge replacement pool as proposed to date. It being unfit for purpose in the future due to the closure of Bricket Wood pool and our governments predicted future increase in housing and (promised) schools in the St Albans area.
The present pool plus Bricket Wood has only just managed to cover for the past 40 years therefore any replacement should be designed to be sufficient for the next 30-40 years or additional pools should be planned and built NOW.

Mr B.P. sends us a copy of his letter to the Herts Advertiser 
(26th March)...

I've recently read in your pages that the expected cost of the new 25-metre pool (plus a learner pool and fitness suites, exercise studios, climbing wall, sports hall, creche, cafe and spa) is almost £27million.
I've also read that St Albans Council believe that to provide a pool of twice this size, would cost twice as much.
Meanwhile the good people at Hillingdon Council have just opened, for their residents, a sports and leisure complex including two 50-metre pools (one indoor and one lido), along with an athletics track with a covered grandstand, floodlit 5-a-side astro pitches, a gym, exercise studios, badminton courts, netball courts, a creche, a cafe, a restaurant, a conference room, a spin studio (whatever that is), and a sports hall. All for the princely sum of £31million (source: London Borough of Hillingdon).
Seems like Council Tax payers in Hillingdon are getting a much better deal.
Time for our Council to order a rethink?

Mr R.S. of Bricket Wood writes to the planning department (26th March)...

Mr Moorhouse, 

I'm writing in regards the new leisure centre due to be built to replace Westminster Lodge. 

I have 3 children who go to the current pool specifically because of the diving boards. In a society where obesity, especially child obesity is a growing problem, I'd have thought making leisure centres as attractive as possible a sensible approach. I also see that the new pools capacity is only fractionally larger than the current pool. This seems very short sighted given the fact the current pool has run out of capacity multiple times in 2009. It seems sensible (and far cheaper)  to build in the expected capacity now, at the drawing board stage. 

Mr C.G. has created a Facebook page for us (26th March)...

[...] It includes your newpool email and website address. If you want anything added, just let us know [...]

Ms J.A. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (25th March)...

Dear Mr A Moorhouse

As a regular user of Westminster lodge swimming facilities, the upcoming development of the site has been drawn to my attention.  I was there today from 4:30 to 7:00 attending two sessions of swimming lessons for my children.  I noted that the main pool was very fully used at around 6pm with people swimming on their way home from work, I presume.

I have been given a leaflet distributed by the people involved with "" and would ask that if they are correct in their analysis that the council should urgently reconsider the current plans they have to make the pool much bigger.  Personally,  I was at school with Hayley Allen who dove in the Olympics in early 1990's and have heard whispers that diving facilities will not be included in the new Westminster Lodge pool.  This seems a crying shame to me, expecially if the plans are revised to make a pool suitable for the next 50 years - think how many potential Olympians we could host.

I would also like to mention that I and many others choose to swim in Hatfield University pool, as the facilities are clean and fresh and the pool is standard size (unlike the 33 meters at WLLC).  So in calculations about the future users of WLLC, those who have already voted with their feet could be enticed back!

I do hope that you will reconsider.

Mr P.B. writes on the subject of current pool demand (25th March)...

I would like to highlight a current problem with the pool.  I work in Central London and due to work and family commitments I can not swim in the mornings, I also find it very difficult to fit time into what are usually very busy weekends, so this only leaves the week day evenings when I can swim.  With everything else that goes on at the pool the only evenings I could swim after 7:00 pm were Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I knew about Bricket Lodge being closed, so last Tuesday I checked on the Harpers website if there were any changes to the timetable and the old one was there.  So last Tuesday the 16th I went down at about 6:50 only to find that Tuesdays up until 9:00 pm are now allocated to the swim club that used to use Bricket Wood. 
So as an adult that works this leaves Thursdays as the only time I can swim between 7:00 and 9:00!  This I consider to be totally inadequate and not meeting my needs as a resident.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do the help the cause.
Once again thanks for your efforts on this.

Mr M.R. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (25th March, original emphasis)...

Dear Sir,

Recently I heard about 
new pool planning application (Council 's planning application case no. 5/10/0259). I normally use Westminster pool very often. Like other people I also believe the new pool plan seems to be too small in terms of the demand, to be honest current pool is already crowded especially during summer times.
As a WLLC user I also believe a 25 metre by 10 lane main pool (177 placees) or configurable 50 metre pool would give overload free service for decades.
So we hope council might reject SADC's planning application now as unfit for purpose. We hope the planning department will think about our suggestion and will build a bigger pool for the local users. Thanks.

Mr J.M. and Mrs S.M. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (25th March, original emphasis)...

I wish to object to the Proposed New Pool at Westminster Lodge
When the schemes were put out for discussion the issue of size and length were clearly
identified as deficiencies in both proposals, these matters were disregarded.
The Pool proposals have now been identified as being no more than a rebuild of the existing
with no provision for growth and not fulfilling the brief of a leisure centre for the 21st century.
St Albans City, if to be taken seriously, requires a 50 metre pool which will allow our Community to
foster Champions we can be proud of on a Global Stage and a leisure centre that can support the
desires of a population who are vastly different and numerical than those of the sixties

Mr T. McN. writes in response to claims by Sheila Burton and the new project's architect regrading the ASA (25th March)...

In the Herts Advertiser Sheila Burton gives the impression that the ASA recommended a 25 metre pool. This is untrue.

Back in 2005, I was chairman of our Community Sports Network. We had a presentation from a sports consultant outlining the various options. It was clear to me at this early point that the 25 metres pool was the council choice, and would happen regardless of any public consultations 

With this in mind, I contacted my friend David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA, and asked him to come to St. Albans and make a presentation to Sheila and the Recreation Manager . David was for a 50 metres pool, observing that every such facility that had been constructed had been engulfed by swimmers. Supply created demand.  It was true that St. Albans was not in the ASA’S master plan for 50 metre pool, and that it was more expensive, but as far as  Sparkes was concerned, that was irrelevant. St Albans was a rich town, and could easily justify and fund an Olympic-size pool. The local support for a cinema, with £1m raised, now provides ample evidence of this. 

Which leads me to Mr.Simpson, though I would observe that many might feel that his vested interest might serve to temper our view of his opinions . He observes that a 50 m. pool is not in the ASA’s regional strategy.This is irrelevant. There are thriving sports facilities of all types all over the country which lie outside NGB strategies, and local communities would be substantially the poorer without them. David Sparkes of the ASA was categoric that an Olympic-size pool was the right option for St Albans, whatever his national strategy said.  There is simply no getting away from that.

Dr A.B. (BSc MD FRCP) of St. Albans writes in support (25th March)...

[...] I have been a regular swimmer at St Albans swimming pool since 1973. In fact it was one of the main reasons that my wife and I moved here.
As a Consultant Physician I am always advising people of the benefits of excercise and swimming is particularly good because it is non weight bearing 
and is very suitable for those with more elderly joints. A lot of Cardiac rehabilitation patients also benefit from swimming.
The planned new pool would 
appear to be far too small for a town of St Albans importance, indeed it will be significantly inferior to the pools at neighbouring Hatfield and potters Bar.
I would like to add strong support to the campaign for a larger pool.

Our very own PoolTooSmall stalwart Sheila Mc.G. sends us a copy of her letter to The Herts Advertiser (24th March)...

Dear Sir

Having read the  ‘YOUR VIEWS’ page in your issue of 18 March I felt I couldn’t let the letter from Peter Simpson of S & P Architects pass without comment.  Whilst he has very likely done an excellent job designing the proposed new Westminster Lodge swimming pool and leisure complex, he can only design what he has been instructed to design.  That doesn’t make his design the best option for the people of St Albans.  I am certainly not challenging his credentials as an architect but I am quite sure that if he had been given the correct instructions he would have designed an even better leisure complex that no-one would be arguing with!

I feel that Mr Simpson is either naïve or trying to mislead people when he states that the extra capacity for swimmers will be 48 not 9.  As Mr Gilroy stated in his letter that Mr Simpson’s is in reply to, the main pool will only cater for 9 extra swimmers.  Mr Gilroy made no comments regarding the training pool.  If, as Mr Simpson implies, competent swimmers are to be sent to swim in the training pool at peak times, with no detrimental effect on parents with young children or those learning to swim, why doesn’t he suggest putting everyone in together from the off?  Also, would the depth of the training pool be increased when/if the general public overflow is added to those the training pool is meant for?

If the design is a result of public consultation, perhaps not enough members of the public had the chance to state their opinions.  Of course the swimming clubs would be pleased with a pool that gives preferential treatment to their needs.  If a larger pool was offered I think they would be even happier, for if the idea of swimming clubs is to achieve excellence, then a 50-meter pool would be twice as good for them, and what an amazing legacy that would be to raise the level of British swimming for future Olympic games.  If a pool with good diving facilities had been offered to the divers, I rather think they would be all for that.  From correspondence in your paper and on the website, only two options were offered, neither of which was suitable for all pool users.

Mr Simpson states that the University of Hertfordshire is the preferred site for a 50-meter pool.  That may well be the case but if there is no 50-meter pool there, nor approved plans for one to be built there in the imminent future, his argument is irrelevant.   Identifying the best site for a facility does not put whatever that facility is in that place.

He also states that sustainability is high on the agenda and argues against a bigger pool because of the increased cost of running it.  What about the damage done to the environment by having car-loads of people who want diving facilities travelling to Hemel Hempstead (approximately 14 miles round trip), Luton, if that idea materialises (approximately 28 miles round trip) or Hatfield ((approximately 10 miles round trip), or to a ‘best site’ for a 50-meter non-existent pool in Hatfield if they want a longer pool to swim in?

The proposed new pool is planned for only 25 years and is already too small, even though it is still at the planning stage.   Since St Albans has a growing population, Bricket Wood pool has closed down and the Government swimming scheme has proved so popular, it is obvious that more that 9 extra swimmers will be expecting to be able to use the new main pool.  With the technology available to us now it should be possible for the new pool to have a life expectancy of 50 – 60 years, which would justify a greater initial investment for a facility to accommodate all for decades to come.

The current plans would represent £1 million a year to pay for the construction, or an average of nearly £3 million per extra swimmer, before considering the running costs?

It is outrageous to consider spending nearly £26 million, though that figure will surely rise during construction, on an inadequate facility with a ridiculously short life expectancy.

Finally, and this is not relating to Mr Simpson’s letter, in 1905, 105 years ago, a pool was built in St Albans.  This is still used by the sub aqua club.  Well done that team!  In 1971, 39 years ago, the current Westminster Lodge Pool was built.  The planners did their research excellently since it’s only in the last year or two that overloading has occurred.  Well done that team!  The proposed new pool is already too small with too short a lifespan planned.  I don’t think that anyone will be saying well done to the team responsible for this should it go ahead.

Yes, a new pool is needed but surely it’s better to get the plans right before starting to build even if the building is a little delayed and the cost higher.   There have been changes to the expected numbers of people using the pool that no one could have predicted when the planning process began, but it’s not too late to reconsider and get it right.  Only then will we be able to say, “well done that team!”

Mr N.D. of Wheathampstead writes to the planning department (24th March)...

Dear Mr. A Moorhouse,
I would like to stress my concerns regarding the council plans for our current pool expansion.  I strongly believe that these expansions plans will not go far enough in serving the needs of our ever growing St Albans community.
I therefore would like to fervently request that a new assessment is made in relation to pool usage so that new plans can be developed to enable the council to build a pool that will actually meet the demands of our expanding community.
I have a young family and I would like them all to continue using the facilities in a safe and accessible manner, but this will only be possible if your current conservative expansion plans for the pool are reconsidered for even greater expansion to accommodate our community fully.

Ms L.D. of Wheathampstead writes to the planning department (23rd March)...

Dear Mr A Moorhouse,
I would like to raise my concern in regard to the plans for the pool expansion. Unfortunately due to demand the expansion just will not be big enough to meet the needs of the community. I strongly urge a new assessment to be made in regard to the pool useage, so the correct size pool is built to meet the demands of the ever expanding community.
I have an 8 month old baby and obviously hope to continue using the facilities in the future with her and my expanding family.

Mr E.B. of St. Albans sends us an extended version of his letter to The Herts Advertiser (22nd March)...

Re. the new swimming pool at Westminster Lodge:

I am grateful to Sheila Burton and Peter Simpson for their letters last week explaining how the mechanism works to divide the new swimming pool in half by a system of ramps and hydraulic pumps.  I had not fully understood this before.

It sounds fantastic, but it also sounds expensive to me compared to more old fashioned method of putting a rope across the pool.

I also see that, in the new plans, the architects have shown six treatment rooms in the space next to the gym. Why? Are they expecting a lot of injuries?

Might I suggest that, unless there is a definite plan for these treatment rooms, they will very quickly become six rather expensive storage cupboards.

Mr Simpson says that in considering the total capacity of the new pool we have to take into account the fact that the capacity of the learner pool is going to be much bigger.

So can we just picture the situation on a busy Sunday afternoon in August when the main pool has reached its maximum capacity.  (This happened several times in the summer of 2009).  The lifeguard in the new pool will be faced with the option of saying to the public: 
'Right, there are too many people in the main pool. Some of you will have to get out and you'll have to go into the learner pool'.

It really is a ludicrous suggestion.  Rather than stubbornly insisting that they know what is best for us, Sheila Burton and Peter Simpson must take account of the 600 comments that they received on the survey forms and the large number of letters sent to the council complaining that the new pool is too small.

Mr Simpson and his firm should use their undoubted expertise to amend the plans to provide the public with what they are asking for, rather than telling us what we are going to have.

Mr Simpson says that a larger pool will cost more to run, and whilst this is true,  in actual fact the running costs will be self funding, because if you attract more customers, then this additional income will pay for the extra running costs.

One option might be to make the learner pool smaller and to make the main pool correspondingly bigger.   This would give you the additional capacity that you need in the main pool. The splash pool could be fitted in next to the smaller learner pool.

Another option would be to put the new learner pool into part of the space currently allocated for a sports hall leaving space to extend the main pool.

The architects are trying to introduce features that we have not asked for.  They are resisting demands for more swimming space in the main pool, and the council committee for sport are trying to push their ideas through without listening to us.

Could I just say that it's part of the democratic process to listen to other peoples' points of view, and while this may not be comfortable sometimes, it's far better in the long term to take everyone's suggestions into account so that you get the best result.

But, thankfully, this will all be considered by the St Albans District planning committee now, and they will have the task of making the best choice about what will happen.

Mr N.H. and Mrs H.H. of St. Albans write to the planning department (22nd March- original emphasis

Dear Mr Moorhouse,

Please can you reconsider the swimming pool proposal at Westminster Lodge?

The maximum capacity of the pools could easily be reached in only 4 years. S&P Architects give an increase in maximum capacity of 48 swimmers from the present 155 to 213 for the proposed two pools. If the new pools attract (only) one additional swimmer each month, the pools will reach maximum capacity in 48 months (4 years). With respect, this looks to be a very poor investment. Closing Bricket Wood pool has displaced more than 48 swimmers.

We have a pool complex that is large enough for four simultaneous activities (learner pool, school swimming lessons, casual sports training and family swimming). Widths and lengths are divided off by conventional, affordable, floating lane guides.

A 25m pool (and a 17m, learner pool more so) restricts activities to one activity at a time (that is either schools, or casual, or length training). Three activities, a reduction from the four we have at present.

Experience with 25m school pools shows that you can not mix vigorous lane swimming with (e.g.) a novice swimming class.

Our present pool can be used by children’s inflatables, too.

lost our diving boards. Luton sports centre hasn’t begun yet. Hemel Hempstead pool is by arrangement only. Diving boards are used by all ages (7 to 70) for health, recreation, and provide a challenge to frustrated teenagers. Unlike lane swimming, diving provides spectacular interest. Their retention should be considered again.

Please can you reconsider the swimming pool proposal at Westminster Lodge?

Ms K.I. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (22nd March)...

Case number 5/10/0259

I am writing to say that I agree with David Gilroy's criticisms of the proposed new swimming pool.

St Albans is a prestigious city and we should ensure that our facilities are measuring up to the expectations of visiting tourists and family members of residents who provide an important and valuable benefit to the city.  But equally importantly - the city's own residents - which include an active population keen to enjoy the many sports available - expect facilities which are at a standard they would be proud to introduce others to.

Please reconsider the existing proposal.

I am confident that the residents of St Albans will indicate their great disappointment in the current proposal.

Mr P.C. writes in support (22nd March)...

Hi David and Ingrid

Please keep up the excellent work. You are doing us swimmers proud.

Mr P.W. of St. Albans sends us his letter to The Herts Advertiser (21st March)...

SIR - Cllr. Burton (letter March 18) tells us she is responding to the comments  about the new Westminster Lodge. But she is most certainly not. Through your columns I have asked repeatedly for her to tell us how she failed to require the designers to provide  a whole range of facilities that are woefully absent from their proposals.
Where is the bowling alley? where is the ice rink? where is the skating rink? where is the roller skating rink? where is  the skate boarding rink? where is the squash court? where is the badminton court? where the diving pool? where are the flumes? Where is the cycle circuit? One thing we do know the location of is the clouds where Cllr Burton seems to be locked in. And she has consistently failed to answer my question  "Was the scheme put out to open free market competition?"

But now she has recruited the master planner - the architect  Peter Simpson, director of S & P Architects who takes a lot of space to tell us how brilliant his firm is. What a pity he did not provide plans which should have been his raison detre - a leisure complex; but what do we have a twopenny halfpenny main pool, a learner pool and  a pool for marginally more advanced performers PLUS  of course a Climbing wall - no doubt soon to be banned under European health & safety regulations; and dozens of exercise machines costing a small fortune and which on the evidence of usage of the present machines are  unlikely to  have an economical usage rate in the foreseeable future.

But I am somewhat comforted in the knowledge that the architect is able to provide a pool with a depth of from 0 to 2 metres. Now I know that Cllr Burton probably believes that she can walk on water but can she also swim in water of a depth of 0 metres? And yet architect Peter Simpson goes on to tell  us that the ASA have said we will be able tó use a 50 metre pool at Luton for "serious " swimming and diving facilities. I wonder if Mr Simpson has ever stood in a queue waiting for a 321 bus to Luton? And in his  24 years residency in  St Albans has he ever used the pool at Westminster Lodge? Why should we be dictated to by remote bodies from London or Bedfordshire? Surely the needs and wishes of St Albans people should be the primary consideration.  M r Simpson tells us that his design was developed after public consulation "meetings". Perhaps he can tell us when and where these meetings were held? As a fairly assiduous observer of local goings on I must have missed the "meetings" and the only consultation which took place was a half bitten questionnaire circulated (as Cllr. Mills wrote some months ago) during the peak holiday period and may probably not have been seen many interested parties. It is perhaps unfortunate that Mr Simpson should refer to his connection with the London Aquatic Centre at the Olympic Park for on the very day you published his letter the Daily Telegraph carried a report that  it now appeared that the roof at the Olympic pool was  too low.

It is not too late to prevent this pig in a poke going ahead so I suggest a moratorium where the whole scheme can be reconsidered by ALL interested parties. Let us call a truly public meeting, widely publicised,  where serious  suggestions can be freely and frankly discussed which might even end up with a truly effective broad ranging leisure centre which meets the needs of the widest possible cross section of our community? Something that goes some way to meeting LDF Core Evidence Base document Sport and Recreation Facilities Strategy 2005 might be a good starting point.

Ms S.M. of St. Albans writes in support (19th March)...

[...] I expect that you have read the letter from S&P Architects in the latest Herts Ad.
See point 4 stating that feedback from the public "chose" option 2. As the choices were so limited re the larger pool I don't think that lane swimmers had any choice at all.
The only way I had to register my comments on pool size was to print in block capitals on both options "POOL TOO SMALL". The consultation was a sham.
Best Wishes

Mr S.M. writes in support (19th March)...

[...] Great photo in last nights  paper and congratulations on the coverage.
I have sent in another letter to the paper  which hopefully will be published next week and questions Peter Simpsons comments. [...]
Good luck with everything

Mr M.B. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (19th March)...

I strongly object to planning application case number 5/10/0259. 

Over forty years ago your predecessors had insight when building the present pool to build for future generations.
Sadly today's SADC seem to lack that quality.
How on earth can you down size from the present 33 metres to 25 metres in length and extend to miserly 2 lanes in width!
The mind boggles. Surely we must be looking at 50 metres by at least 10 lanes to accommodate present demands, and for those of future generations.

Our very own Mr D.G. of St. Albans submitted his detailed report and objections to the planning department (18th March)...

Ms L.M. of St. Albans, Mrs A.M. and Mr S.M. write to the planning department (17th March)... 

Dear Mr Moorhouse
I am writing to comment and object to the Council's planning application 5/10/0259 at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre.
My family have been swimming at the centre weekly for over 20 years as residents of the District.
The proposed scheme does not provide adequately for current swimming demand or for increased future demand over the proposed lifetime of 25 years.
I understand the current pool has a maximum capacity of 133 persons and the proposed pool 142 persons.
I believe a 25 metre by 10 lane pool (177 persons) or better still a configurable 50 metre pool would be a more fit for purpose plan.
As a child I learned to swim in the pool and am now a regular lane swimmer. I have to choose my times carefully to avoid the frequent overcrowding that occurs at much lower capacities than those quoted above, which do not allow for proper swimming.
It is the Council's duty to support government initiatives to promote improved fitness levels by providing adequate swimming facilities for the next 25 years.
I believe swimming will continue to gain in popularity compared to the additional gym activities in the scheme, which will become less popular in the same way that squash (recently removed from the cost of living index) has declined. Swimming costs less than gym activities and as a recognised sport is more enjoyable because of the variety of ways in which it can be performed. Enjoyment is the most important factor in encouraging participation in sport generally.
Harpenden outdoor 33 metre pool was replaced by the indoor 25 metre pool which is even more crowded than Westminster Lodge. 
Finally, I note Bricket Wood pool has closed and replacement facilities are needed.

Mrs M.G. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (16th March- original emphasis)...


I write to voice my concern regarding the proposed future development of the Westminster Lodge Swimming Pool.  I was formally a schools swimming teacher at Westminster Lodge as well as providing group and private lessons.  Thus I feel qualified to comment.  

Currently I use the pool three times a week for approximately one hour to swim lengths for fitness; I also observe use of the pool at other sessions.  It is well used and even with its less up to date facilities is still much in demand by the public.  A more modern facility is likely to increase its popularity and so we are looking at a demand far in excess of the current usage

I feel it is very important that the SADC Team review the current plans for future development, particularly with the recent closure of The Bricket Wood Pool.  I have already observed the impact of increased attendance at Westminster Lodge as a result of this. 

There are obviously several aspects of the plan that could benefit from review, but of major concern is that the current size of the proposed pool (25m x 8 lanes) will be inadequate.  Emphasis on maintaining personal fitness has meant that far more people are using this means of exercise than in previous years.  I have even met people who have said that the benefit of swimming regularly has helped them avoid surgery for arthritis. 

With the loss in length of the pool there is virtually no allowance in pool space to cope with modern demands for different types of swimming exercise, such as club training, diving, lane swimming, swimming sessions for the disabled, aerobics and fun sessions.  Several more lanes, at least 4 for even current demand are necessary. 

I understand that we are also to lose proper diving facilities; this is a sad loss for such an important city. 

I feel that the proposed pool does not cater for all the future needs of our community.  I urge that you initiate a review and do not allow the current plans to go ahead without this.

Ms J.C. writes (16th March)...

Hi David, Michael, I’m happy for you to quote me by name. Keep at it!
I remember the pool queues on several occasions because I am a regular user of the sports centre and some occasions I was able to go through and use the small pool with my son whereas older kids and parents were turned away from the main pool as it was at capacity.

Ms J.P. of Bricket Wood writes (16th March)...


I join the swelling band of incredulous St. Albans residents who cannot believe the proposals for a 25m pool on the Westminster Lodge site.

We have just lost Bricket Wood Pool where many local children learned to swim and started to develop a taste for the fun and benefits swimming can bring.

We need to try to encourage children to go swimming, if the Westminster Lodge pool is not only further away (from those local to Bricket Wood) but is also a small pool with no diving boards, how are we going to encourage people to bother going?

As a swimmer, I really like the challenge of the 33m pool at Westiminster Lodge, but often would go to Bricket Wood as it was closer. I would have to really motivate myself to even bother going all that way if the pool is only 25m, very ordinary.
Come on SADC, you run a beautiful and historic city council, are you really devoid of imagination? How much of our hard earned money will you waste on this project? 

We hear so much about how the nation needs to exercise more so why not try to inspire the residents of St. Albans with a fabulous new pool that can really take us into the future.

I urge you to plan a bigger pool and aim high for potential user numbers.

This is a huge project. Why settle for something mediocre when it could be something fabulous?

Mr P.L. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (16th March)...

New Westminster Lodge:- Case Number 5/10/0259

Dear Mr Moorhouse,

Once again a half baked idea from SADC with no provisions for the future. Having moved here 10 years ago all I have witnessed is money wasted time and again by numerous councils and the general degeneration of a once popular town, with poor shops and inadequate leisure facilities. Here is your chance for once to actually do something that is beneficial to the residents of St Albans that actually works and gives the town something to be proud of.

A recent report in the national papers stated that the residents of St Albans and district pay more in taxes than any other part of the country including Westminster and other affluent areas. Surely now is the time to actually spend some of that money raised locally on the local projects give something back to the people (are you listening prospective MP's)

A 50 metre pool with a moveable boom and diving boards is the only answer, whilst I appreciate there will be addition costs involved the possible revenue that a well marketed 50 metre pool will bring into the area will far outway the costs. If as quoted by a previous complainant Loughborough can build a 50 metre pool for 7million we should find out what contractor they used as 27 million seems to be a remarkable mark up.

A legacy for the future must be built not a stop gap solution that my children will have to replace in 15 years time. 

Mr N.H. of St. Albans writes to the planning department and Cllr Allan Witherick (15 March)...

Dear sirs,
With regards to the planning application for the redevelopment of Westminster lodge swimming pool (Planning Ref 5/10/0260CA). I feel that I must write to you in order to object to this proposal.
My reason for the objection is primarily that this proposal falls very far short of what is required in order to meet the needs of the St Albans community as it provides far too little in the way of increased swimming capacity for the current requirement, never mind that which will be necessary as the local population increases over the next few years, or the increase due to the closure of Bricket wood swimming pool, which will inevitably put greater pressure on the new facility at Westminster lodge.
It also appears to me that very little real consultation with the local community took place prior to the publicly displayed options presented by the council, of which the proposed scheme is clearly the best of a bad bunch, rather than the public’s choice. This is supported by the huge opposition to this proposal that has appeared in the local press over the last few months. I myself objected in detail as far back as September 2008 (see attached memo to Councilor Roma Mills).
If the planning department took the time to take a tour of local facilities you would see that there are a lot of innovative ways in which the complex needs of pool users can be met. Most notable amongst these is the Herts university pool at Hatfield which has a variable depth floor and a rising dividing wall that allows the pool to be split for multiple different uses. However even with this flexibility the pool is used to a very high capacity resulting in casual swimming being very restricted and often cramped into a very small portion of the main pool. High capacity being the best word to describe all of the local pools that I looked at before deciding that the only way that I could get to go swimming with my son to teach him how to swim better and do some lengths without getting in anyone’s way was to join a local club (Nuffield Health), where een there there is high pressure from lessons for children that encroaches on the needs of other swimmers at all times of the week.
In St. Albans I believe that there is a clear need for a 50M pool with a similar raising floor and dividing wall system, as this is the minimum that will provide decent facilities for all of the various uses that the pool should be put to. Also this would provide, if it was at least 8-10 lanes wide, the extra capacity that will be required in the coming years.
Separately I would like to draw your attention to the fact that  a 50M pool would provide a very important facility for budding Olyimpians. As far as I have been able to find out the nearest 50M facilities are at Crystal Place, Peterborough and Southampton and when it is completed the Olympic pool in East London. Proper diving facilities could also be included in the scheme for the same reasons. With a dividing wall the diving /teaching pool could also provide the entry point for fun slides. Paris for example has 8 Olympic spec pools and even the village community on France (Fouesnant in Brittany) where we have a mobile home has an 8 lane 25M pool, separate leisure pool with fountains and jets etc, a slides entry only pool with a tube slide and an infants splash pool and all this in a community with an average population similar to Radlett.
Clearly with this flexibility it would enable the complex to maximize use by as wide a part of our community as possible and to provide a regionally important training facility for aspiring swimmers, which would bring further financial benefits to the area when competitions take place.
It would also appear that this scheme fall some way short on environmental credentials. The Council portfolio holder for sports and leisure has stated that to increase the pool size to 50M would double the cost of both the structure and the cost of heating it. Both of which are not true, especially if the planning department insist on extensive solar heating for this development. The inevitably large roof  area is ideal to do this and could be used to provide a very high proportion of the buildings total heating requirements, which in future years will be very beneficial as the cost of heating goes up and up.
Finally I would like to draw your attention to the Statement from the PPS document paragraph 1 concerning delivery of sustainable development, which is quoted in paragraph 2.4 of the planning statement for this application (document number P09-335 Planning Statement).
“Planning shapes the places where people live and work and the country we live in. Good planning ensures that we get the right development, in the right place and at the right time. It makes a positive difference to people’s lives and helps to deliver homes, jobs, and better opportunities for all, Whilst protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment, and conserving the countryside and open spaces that are vital resources for everyone…”. Good planning is noted as being “a positive and proactive process, operating in the public interest through a system of plan preparation and control over the development and use of land”. As a result “Sustainable development is the core principle underpinning planning. At the heart of sustainable development is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations”.
It is clear to me that the proposal put forward in this application fails to meet the requirements of virtually every important point in the above statements, especially the last one and I therefore implore you to reject this scheme.

For the subsequent correspondence between Cllr Witherick and Mr N.H. click here

Mr C.G. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (15th March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse,

I write to you to express my deep unease about SADC's plans for the redevelopment of Westminster lodge leisure centre, if the new pool will only provide 9 extra places for the people of St Albans to swim in for the next 25 years, at the cost of £27 million pounds (latest estimate) of local peoples money, surely we deserve better value for money from our local council. St Albans is a wonderful city, is it too much to ask that we have facilities to match this, surely this redevelopment of Westminster lodge is needed but why oh why do SADC choose to ignore the needs of it's people today and in the future, this is a real opportunity for St Albans, lets not waste it!

I look forward to your reply

Mr D.S. of St. Albans writes in support (15th March)...

[...] All the best and thankyou to you and the team for setting up the campaign [...]

Mr D.S.'s letter to the planning department:

Dear Mr Moorhouse,
I am writing to express my concern at the size and configuration of the new swimming pool.
I regularly use Westminster Lodge, 3-4 times a week, I believe a 25m by 10 lane pool or a configurable 50m pool would be more suitable. A 50m pool would attract a lot of competition swimmers to the pool and be a fantastic resource for those young athletes in the area and enable their aspirations to be supported with the right facilities, such as the 50m pool facilities they enjoy in Loughborough. I compete in triathlon for which long distance swimming is a big part and I really appreciate the 33m pool length in enabling me to improve my technique.
The proposed pool does not take into account the growing population size of St Albans and will not be able to meet customer demand at peak times aswell the popular swimming clubs will be competing for pool time not just in races, which shouldn’t be the case!
The argument that a larger pool would cost more to heat should be addressed with sustainable and low lifetime cost heating means such as groundsource heat pumps and solar water heaters, CHP etc.
My son has his swimming lessons at the pool and the loss of diving boards and slides is a real shame. I would suggest this SADC team go back to the drawing board.

Mr G.M. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (15th March)...

Dear Mr Moorehouse
I am writing to you as I feel very disappointed in the new swimming pool proposal.
Firstly the size will be too small in comparison with the current pool and 9 extra swimming places will be totally inadequate.
Secondly the loss of the diving boards. I have grown up with this swimming pool being drawn there because of the diving facilities and my children are the same enjoying them every week. Swimming is great for them and I am worried the loss of the boards will dull their enthusiasm to continue going.
I have also noticed a large increase in people at the pool and also at Woodside where I go lane swimming on Monday nights since the closure of the Bricket Wood pool.
I look forward to your reply

Mrs I.G. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (14th March)...


Dear Mr Moorhouse,

I write to object to the inadequate proposed size of the Main Pool at 
the new Westminster Lodge facility.

The extra 9 swimming places will be totally inadequate considering the 
overloads we had last Summer 2009 and future growth over the next few 

Since the Bricket Wood facility was closed on 28th February 2010 we have 
all noticed a significant increase in numbers using the main pool and 
this will further load and at times overload the Lodge site from now on.

Please go back to planning a bigger Main Pool in the light of the 
above, the very popular Government Swimming Scheme and general population growth.

I wish to  prevent a very expensive mistake by the Council and it's planners and suggest that 
the next step is to go back to the drawing board employing  an in-house Chief Engineer to 
drive this project forward professionally.

This present application, if realised, will not be a legacy to be proud of by the City of St.Albans in Olympic year 2012.

It should be rejected now.

Mr P.W. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (14th March)...

Case No. 5/ 2010/0259 - Replacement of Westminster Lodge.

The above application should be rejected on the following grounds:

1) It is disingenuous in it's description in that it is NOT a straight replacement  for the present pool as it eliminates all
diving facilities, it eliminates the "flumes", an extremely popular facility which, over recent times has been deliberately withdrawn
from public use except for something like two one and a half  hour sessions  each week - giving the Leisure committee the deceitful excuse that there is no demand for them. Compare that with Hemel where a similar facility open All day, every day , gives rise to constant queues. It  also eliminates all  possibility for swimmers of serious intent to improve their performances since  a 25 meter length pool is not universally recognised as  a  truly competitive length.

2)  the proposal is to vastly increase (at huge cost) the number of exercise machines for which the present level of usage of
existing machines is not high enough to keep them in constant use. So to multiply the number by a factor of ten is an example of irresponsible planning and incompetence.

3) Having lost Bricket Wood Pool, we should be  looking to additional water facilities at Westminster Lodge but the main pool
is projected to provide only five square meters of additional water space and this, at a suggested cost of something between £1/2 million and £1 million a square meter. Such profligacy cannot possibly be justified .

4) it seems apparent that the committee have failed in their duty to exercise Due Diligence over their proposals and  they should not be allowed to steamroller through their ill-considered and inadequate proposals.

Before any planning permission is granted the committee  should be required to hold substantive public discussion with all interested parties particularly with those whose technical competence  is far superior to their own or of such advisers as they  appear to have consulted and above all any decision taken  should not be delegated to the Officers as a way of abrogating  the responsibility which clearly hangs with elected members of the council.

Mr and Mrs I.G. and M.G. of St. Albans write to the planning department (14th March)...

I wish to complain about this planning application. This should be rejected in its current form as unsuitable to support any growth.

1. The revised proposal makes little extra capacity available (9 extra bathers) before capacity is reached. 
2. There is no room for growth, unlike the original development in 1971. 
3. With Bricket Wood closing, there is already major conflict over the time available, with clubs having to share the same water, which is ridiculous, so the demand is clearly there.
4. There are no facilities for supporting swimming and diving at a national or county standard because the pool is too short and too small now and the proposals do not remedy that.

There should be a new consultation led by a professional to consider a pool complex with significantly increased capacity. There has always been enough capacity to keep both Bricket Wood and Westminster Lodge well-used, and the Council is letting down its customers by not providing facilities suitable for encouraging the sport at a national level. The original pool was not made to a standard for national competitions: time to get it right now. The so-called public support for the current proposals was biased without any proper facility for national competition level and was a fundamentally flawed piece of spin.

Mr R.M. of Harpenden writes to the planning department (12th March)...

F.A.O Mr A. Moorhouse,
Planning Development Control Dept
Re Case Number 5/10/0259
Dear Mr Moorhouse 
I write in objection of the current plans to replace the existing Westminster Lodge Swimming Pool with an 8 Lane 25 Metre Pool.
I have used the existing facility every week for over 10 years because the key attraction is the length of the current pool which enables keen swimmers to swim for longer without turning. There is a dearth of pools more than 25 Metres long in the UK and we are set to lose another one in St Albans.
I will be happy to see more modern facilities at Westminster Lodge and if it must be a 25 Metre Pool then I would agree with a revised proposal for 10 Lanes so that there is enough lanes to practically accomodate a range of swimming abilities and Clubs/sessions etc. for years to come.
St Albans District is known for its active sporting community and deserves an aquatic facility which meets the aspirations of the public.    
Please revisit the plans before the bulldozers move in

Ms J.C. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (11th March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse,
I am extremely impressed by the passion, dedication and community spirit Mr & Mrs Gilroy have shown with their campaign to revise the plans of the Westminster Lodge swimming pool. What they say (that the plans for the new pool are not forward thinking enough – not enough capacity for increases in numbers projected to want to make use of the pool) sounds spot on and I fully support their campaign to re-think the pool, specifically making it bigger.
I realise this may impact on other parts of the proposed development but I think if we’re spending such a large amount of money we need to make sure the new facilities are fit for purpose and built to last; to cater for  the future. I have used Westminster Lodge since I moved to St Albans in 2001 and have been a member since 2006. I am really excited about the new development and it will be great that more people can make use of it. (I remember the queues and disappointed would-be-swimmers of summer 2009).

Mr C.P. of Tring writes to the planning department (11th March)...

Case Number 5/10/0259
Mr A. Moorhouse,
I have been informed that the Westminster lodge swimming facility is to be knocked down and rebuilt elsewhere on site. Although this may be a worthy idea, what I don’t understand is why the new facility is set to be smaller than the existing one? I use the complex every day, during lunch hours and in the evenings. The majority of the time the swimming area and gym is overcrowded and I have in fact been turned away from the center because of this. My main reason for emailing is to find out why you are considering building a new complex costing £26 million + that is smaller than the already existing overcrowded one? Especially seeing as population in towns/cities is constantly growing.

Mr A.P. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (11th March)...

Attn: Mr A Moorhouse, Planning Development Control Dept, St Albans District Council. [...]
Swimming Pool: Case 5/10/0259
Dear Sir,
Please reject the current proposal as unfit for purpose.
I support the provision of new facilities at Westminster Lodge but believe the new main swimming pool should be a configurable 50m x 20m (8 lanes) similar to that at Loughborough University completed in 2002 for £7m*. It often operates split into two 25m sections using a moveable boom. One 25m section has a moveable floor giving depths of 0 - 2m making it ideal for all types of swimming activity.
In considering the new facilities in St Albans one ought to consider the wider district where no 50m pool exists. I very much enjoyed my ten visits to Letchworth Lido (50m open air) last summer, but that is 24 miles away and hard to justify for half an hour's lunchtime swim.

Mrs K.T. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (11th March)...

Dear Sirs

I am writing to express my concern at the size of the new swimming pool.

As a user of Westminster Lodge I believe a 25m by 10 lane pool or a configurable 50m pool would be more suitable.

The proposed pool does not take into account the growing population size of St Albans and will not be able to meet customer demand at peak times.

I lane swim twice a week and have three children in swimming lessons at the pool and I would suggest this SADC team go back to the drawing board.

I also think the loss of diving boards and slides is a real shame.

Mr W.G. of Cambridge writes to the planning department (10th March)...

dear mr moor house , i would like to object to your propossed plan at westminster lodge. it appears to me that it would not be providing any extra benefits to people considering the proposed cost. i learnt to swim the by attending once aweek via fleetville juniors, also i taught my daughter there and hope to see my future grandchildren use the facility althought the pool needs modernising i dont think this plan has been given true thought or consideration generally. the people of st albans deserve better so please dont fail them, go back to the drawing board.

Mr J.G. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (10th March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse,
As a resident of St.Albans since birth there in 1978, it saddens me that future generations will not have the fun that I had and continue to have with the present facilities at Westminster Lodge.
I learnt to swim there aged 5 and have done lane swimming  there in the Main Pool ever since also enjoying the diving boards and the flumes.
The present pool is an ideal length and it will be terrible if  the inadequate present proposed pool of only 25 metres by 8 lanes was introduced .With only 9 extra bathers catered for, it will be overloaded again, like last Summer ,in no time and get worse over the years!
Why not rethink the proposed Main Pool size and provide an adequate bigger one so that future generations can enjoy it as I have ?
The present Planning Application should be rejected and you should start listening to us, the people that know what we want.

Mr M.S. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (10th March)...


Dear Mr. Moorhouse,  -    Case No. 5 / 10 / 0259   -

Like many other thousands of St. Albans residents who bother to read The Herts Advertiser and The Review, I am astonished and dismayed at the so called proposals championed by Sheila Burton reference the down - classing of our main public swimming pool at Westminster Lodge.

At present the cost hovers in the area of £27 million to SHORTEN the existing 6 lane X 33mtr pool to 8 lane x 25mtrs, all for sake of accommodating 9 extra swimmers which Sheila Burton reckons is a realistic statistical increase to cater for our increasing population needs. Seeing that we appear to be heading for a children demographic " boom " period again, with Primary / Junior schools being asked to increase their so called sacrosanct 30 class base and St. Albans having to seriously consider building another Secondary School in the area, it strikes me as ludicrous to just think of an additional 9 bodies taking to the water, when we should be thinking far more progressively and building a facility of which we, both young and elderly, can feel proud. Perhaps like the London Olympics we should consider an extra Rates levy to fund something of which a 25 year posterity would be proud !

And what about the diving zone ! Has everyone,including Sheila Burton --- and she is nearly 70 years of age --- forgotten that St. Albans at the turn of the late 60s / early 70s produced Robin Baskerville, who became 2 x UK Diving Champion and represented GB in the Olympics in the Brian Phelp's era.

As they say " turn again Dick Whittington ", by which I really mean " re-appraise the situation Sheila Burton " and create a legacy of which we can be proud in our City of St. Albans. Cast the theory of 2006 aside, employ some truly qualified, knowledgeable people, including local swimming clubs to visualise a facility that meets the true demands of the people and not this farcical figure of 9 extra bodies.

Mr C.H. of Elstree writes to the planning department (10th March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse
I am a swimming member at westminster lodge.I have just seen plans re the size of the new swimmimg pool.
I am very disappointed about the lack of additional capacity for future growth.Given the government's push to get more people exercising,and the increasing trend of doctors to prescribe exercise, particularly swimming, it appears to be a false economy and very shortsighted.
I object to the proposed size of the new pool

Mr A.G. of Watford writes to the planning department (10th March)...

To Mr A. Moorhouse
I and my family have been frequent swimmers/users to Westminster Lodge over the years.  What has attracted me to the swimming pool is the size and particularly the length.
The proposed new pool to let in only 9 additional bathers is ridiculous! In the peak season Westminster Lodge have had to turn away bathers so what are you and the planners thinking of? Also I see at the moment it is going to cost in the region of £27 million, I suspect it will be alot more.
Why don’t you listen to what the people of St Albans want and other users such as myself who don’t live in the vicinity

Mr G.S. of Potters Bar writes in support (8th March)...

Having read the objections to the size of the proposed new pool, I have to agree and would like to add my name to the list of  objectors.

Mr E.B. of St.Albans writes (8th March)...

Dear David and Ingrid,

[...] [the pool] is not available at certain times of the week- Saturday mornings from 10:30 to 12:00 it is used for disabled swimmers; Wednesday evening, women only; there are swimming clubs on two other nights; schools also use it for teaching during the day.
I would go in swimming more if it was not for these restrictions, but it seems obvious to me that the present pool is already not big enough for the number of groups who want to use it. [...]

Mr E.B.'s letter to the planning department:

Dear Sirs,

I have looked at the final plans for the new Westminster Lodge centre and I am disappointed to see that, after having received over 600 responses, these seem to be exactly the same plans that were originally submitted, in every detail, although you say that they have been amended to take account of peoples' opinions. You really must listen to what people are asking for.

1) For instance, some mothers have said to me, and have said in the consultation, that, as a lot of children use the leisure centre, there should be some smaller size childrens' toilets. This is just a detail, but it is one that you have ignored at the moment.

The new gym looks fine and seems to have more than double the space of the existing one at Westminster Lodge. Also, the cafe in the new leisure centre is a big improvement because it is open to the park and it also provides additional seating outside.

2) However, the new improved facility will attract more members. If you are doubling the size of the gym, you will attract double the number of members, and a lot of these new users will want to use the swimming pool. You must listen to the large group of us who say that the main swimming pool needs to be bigger than the one planned, in order to cope with increased demand from new members, and from more families moving into the area. The present pool is already over crowded at peak times, so your planning needs to take account of this.           

In the proposed new spa you have shown 6 treatment rooms!! on the first floor, as well as a hammam, a tepidarium and a laconium, a sauna and two steam rooms on the ground floor.

The thing that is used the most by almost everybody in the present health suite is the large tiled shower room or wet room.

People like this because, compared to the smaller shower cubicles, it is large enough to feel comfortable and to spread out without hitting your head. It also has a solid door at the entrance and this is preferred because a lot of people don't want to be seen in the shower through a slightly frosted glass screen.

3) Can we have two tiled wet rooms please instead of the tepidarium and the laconium? I can get a petition signed for this if you like.

Your plan shows a new sports hall, which is a facility that is not provided at the moment. In a lot of leisure centres, the sports hall stands empty for a lot of the time. Is this hall just something that is being imposed by the planners, or is there an actual demand for this? What are your cash flow forecasts for this and what is the anticipated use? If it is just planned because someone thinks that it is a good idea then perhaps part of that space should be used to accommodate a larger swimming pool. 

Finally, I would urge you to employ a professional independent civil engineer project manager specifically to oversee this large contract, who will make sure that work is done on time and within budget. This should not be someone who works for the contractor or the architects who will not be so concerned about budget control.  

If you want an example of how not to put this project through you should consider the 'Spa' in Bath, a development which was managed by the council itself and which ended up years late and very substantially over budget as a result. 

The new leisure centre building itself is lovely and I would congratulate you on getting things to the present state. We are arguing about what should go inside it.

I suppose that this is all part of the planning process, but proper debate only works if you are prepared to listen.

Mr & Mrs H. of St. Albans write by post in support (7th March)...

Mr B.C. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (7th March)...

Dear Mr A Moorhouse,
I write to urge you to please reconsider your proposals for the new Swimming Pool at Westminster Lodge. The current pool size has already been deemed as insufficient, with pool users being turned away due to the maximum numbers being reached. With the new pool size only accommodating an additional 9 users, this clearly doesn't address the issue.
The proposed money being spent is that of the public's, so you have a duty to listen to the public and at least go back to the drawing board to review the propsals and come up with an option that gives value for money now and in future years - remember there's always targets to hit too for providing additional housing in the region, so with the extra residents, you need to ensure the pool size allows for additional growth over years to come.
Even when the pool is not at capacity, the closer to capacity it gets, the more crowded it becomes which impacts on the experience of the swim session. My family and I want to enjoy our swim, we currently have membership to Westminster Lodge, but we will not continue with membership if our swim experience is impacted in a negative way due to overcrowding or being turned away.
With the forthcoming elections, you need to be seen to be listening to those who care about the community. Agreeing to review the proposals would be a great place to start.
If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right and this is your opportunity to make sure that happens.

Mr R.C. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (6th March)...

For the attention of
Mr A Moorhouse
Planning Development Control Dept
Dear Sirs
Regarding recent comments in the press and private circulars regarding the size of the proposed pool, may I make the following observations:-

1. The pool must be sufficiently large to at least cater for training, teaching and leisure to match the existing usage plus an allowance for projected future growth. This should allow for the closure of the pool at Bricket Wood and the Government’s projected housing development in the South East. Also people are actively being encouraged by the Government to take up swimming, they won’t if the pool is crowded.

2. I also consider the development  should provide facilities for diving, if necessary this should be provided at the expense of the climbing wall and any of the other non swimming activities, after all, this is supposed to be a swimming complex.

If the development is to cost the tax and rate payers of the district an estimated 19 million pounds, it’s got to be right, please listen to the criticisms and if necessary delay the proposed start date, perhaps it would be an idea to involve interested members of the public in the debate?  

Mr A.G. from Exeter writes to the planning department (6th March)...

Case Number 5/2010/0259

Dear Mr Moorhouse,

I am emailing to reject the council's plans for a new pool. I frequently swim at the pool, as part of my recreation during visits to family in the town. Having witnessed the overcrowding myself at peak times in the summer holidays, I am amazed that your proposed pool won't be MUCH bigger. The current pool is already too small and the new pool has to consider a rapidly growing population.

I would add that spending vast sums of money to build a pool that won't cater for the needs of the community is unwise, particularly in these hard economic times.
I think it is essential that the council rethinks its plans so that the town can have a bigger pool, plenty of lanes and the flexiblity to cater for all demographics during busy times. In short, children, professional swimmers, the expanding 'older' population and families deserve a comfortable swim. PLEASE RECONSIDER YOUR PLANS.

Ms B.G. of St. Albans writes to the planning department (6th March)...

Case no 5/10/0259
Dear Sir
I am a regular at the St albans pool and agree that we need a need complex as the pool at the moment is very run down & in need of repair .
But the new proposed pool is two small. I go over to westminster lodge as to swim lengths' to do 44 in an hour is quite a good swim, and good exercise.
I recently went to the new pool at west side watford. Yes it is all very nice but is kiddies corner just a splash about Great for school Holidays Summer fun but no good for 40 lengths'. there are a lot of swimmers that want to do lengths' & over the years  Westminster lodge has provided this as will as having summer fun times. The centre need to cater for all ages and needs.

Mr C.H. of Bushey writes (by post) to the planning department (6th March)...

Ms E.C. writes to the planning department (5th March)...

Dear Sir/Madam

I have swum every 2 weeks in the St Albans pool for at least 16 years with my partner. I enjoy its large size as it allows both the women's water aerobics class and me to use the pool at the same time before the diving class at 2100. The long lengths give my swimming an extra push. The current pool does need to be improved up to modern standards.

I reject St. Albans District Council's planning application now as unfit for purpose and recommend the SADC team go back to the drawing board and do the planning professionally.

St. Albans District Council should recruit a professional of chief engineer calibre to do the in-house planning and supervision of such a major project. The public should be provided with a main pool able to meet up to 40 years’ demand and population growth.

I believe a 25 metre by 10 lane pool (177 places) or a configurable 50 metre pool would be far better choices than the current ‘dead in the water already’ 25 metre by 8 lane proposal. And at least making swimming for local people the main aim of any new development - not 'spa pools' or current fashionable activities such as spin cycling (a large open configurable space such as that in Harpenden will be much more long-term fleible to cater for fashions for 2020 activities)

Mr P.H. writes to the planning department (5th March)...

Dear Mr. Moorhouse

I understand that the pool at Westminster Lodge is scheduled to be replaced. I must say this is welcome as the existing facility is starting to look quite tired. However, I understand that there is only capacity for an extra 9 bathers in the plans. I was at the pool today and could hardly swim due to the amount of users there. The school groups took up 3/4 of the pool and therefore left no room for the rest of us.

I am a monthly paying member of the pool and use the facility several times a week in my lunch break. Often the pool is very busy and often leads to me curtailing my swim early due to the frustration it causes. Therefore I am horrified to discover that the new pool would have such a tiny increase in capacity.

Surely the cost of building a pool cannot be too much higher to add a couple of lanes on, or make it a bit longer. I would have thought it was the perfect opportunity to increase the size of the pool, ensuring the capacity would be big enough to cope with years of increase in numbers.

Seeing as the pool has significant use by the schools and is packed each day, it is very disappointing that provision for this and continued growth hasn’t been catered for in the plans for the new pool. Initiatives such as the under 16's and over 60's going free and the focus on people swimming to ensure they stay healthy can only increase the usage of the pool, so it would seem the new pool would just not be big enough to meet the demand.  

I urge you to reconsider the plans and make provision for more bathers and increase the size of the pool which will serve the community for the years to come.

Mrs S.M. of Wanstead, Essex- a long time visitor to our Cathedral City- writes to the planning department (4th March)...

For the attention of Mr A. Moorhouse

Dear Sir,

Although I don’t live in St Albans, my sister and brother-in-law do and I have used the present Westminster Lodge swimming pool many times and enjoyed it very much, but I feel I must write to you regarding the plans for the proposed new pool. 

It seems very short sighted to plan to accommodate only 9 extra swimmers. Surely there are many occasions, especially during school holidays, when that capacity would already be inadequate, never mind the future growth of the area. 

If all these millions of pounds are to be spent, it would be immoral and totally wasteful to have insufficient space for all the residents, who will be paying for it, and their guests. 

I think that the pool should, ideally, be of equal length to the existing, i.e. 33 metres since that is a far better length to build fitness. I can understand that maybe that would be more expensive but if the length is not possible it’s essential that more lanes should be added to the width to accommodate a growing population.

I hope you will reconsider the plans before anything further is planned so that an expensive, disastrous mistake can be avoided.

Mrs S.C. of St.Albans wrote (3rd March)...

After meeting you yesterday at Westminster Lodge I have sent the following e-mail to
I am writing to express my opinion regarding the Council's Planning Application Case No. 5/10/0259.
As a frequent swimmer at Westminster Lodge I believe that the proposed new swimming pool will not be adequate in size as it will only accommodate an extra 9 bathers compared with the current pool which is already overloaded at peak times of the year. Given the demands for new housing in St Albans, the density of population in our area is inevitably set to increase. It therefore seems to show a lack of judgement to be spending £19 million on a swimming pool which will not have added capacity for a growing population. The main pool at Westminster Lodge is one of the most important public facilities in St Albans, used throughout the week by people of all ages; school children are taught to swim there, and it is well known that swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. The rebuilding of Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre is a very exciting prospect, it would be a shame not to do it properly, the new main swimming pool needs to be considerably longer or wider (or both) than the proposed 25 metres by 8 lanes if it is going to provide an adequate facility for the next 40 - 50 years. I would urge the St Albans District Council to reconsider the size of the proposed new swimming pool and come up with a new plan for a larger pool.

Mr B.P. of St.Albans writes to the planning department (3rd March)...

Re: Case Number 5/10/0259

Dear Mr Moorhouse

I am writing in response to the Council’s plans for a new leisure facility adjacent to Westminster Lodge which will be centred around a new swimming pool. I write to request that the current plans for this facility be rejected completely for the sake of the people of St Albans. 

I suggest that for an organisation charged with delivering value-for-money to the local population, this current proposal to spend an estimated £19 million on a facility which would be virtually out-of-date before it is even opens, represents a clear failure. 

Given that, in 2009 people were turned away from using the current pool because of over-crowding, and the doors are closing on the pool at Bricket Wood, and the population is increasing and set to do so for decades to come… then I am astonished the Council considers spending the best part of 20 big ones on a pool catering for just 9 extra bathers over the next 25-30 years represents good value.

I believe the council tax payers of St Albans deserve something far, far better than the current proposal which seems to be based on the least the Council can get away with that still attracts Sport England funding. 

I object strongly to the current proposal and believe that the Council should admit it’s got it wrong, withdraw the proposal and return to the drawing board.

Mr B.Z. of St. Albans, a regular swimmer, writes to the planning department (2nd March)...

Dear Mr Moorhouse,
We are writing to plead with you to reconsider an aspect of the plans for this new building. I do not think that a new main pool of 25m x 8 lanes is adequate to meet the growing needs of the city.
I use the current pool for training 4 sessions a week and the evening sessions are always a crush.
In the summer holidays (outside lanes sessions) we were turned away on two occasions because the pool was too full. Thus indicating that the current pool is already too small.
These are the facts and now you are contemplating an even smaller pool.
I would like to think that St Albans is a forward looking city with clear views over the horizon. So to my mind building a flash and expensive new building with a smaller pool is a backward step.
Can you please look into the following options.
Top Option: A flexible use 50m pool (like in Greenford, West London) and a focus on attracting the next generation of Olympic swimmers, Tri Athletes and Water Polo players. This would be forward looking and will bring many benefits.
Bottom Option: A 25m pool with 12 lanes. A slight increase in footprint of current pool.
I look forward to your considered response

Mr P.C. of Dunstable, a regular swimmer at WLLC said (1st March)...

Dear Sir 

though I am not a resident of Saint Albans, I am a regular user of the Westminster Lodge Pool at least once a week for the last 10 years or so, and it is in this capacity that I write to you. I work in Abbey View at the Serena offices, and like other colleagues avail myself of the facilities at least once a week of a lunch time.

The current proposals as they stand are indequate and are in need of further revision, the pool sizes are simply tool small especially for the main pool, it is becoming overcrowded, to the point that some colleagues are now going to other pools rather than having to suffer at Westminster lodge.

So, I was initially hopefully with the proposals for a new Sports centre, however the proposals are simply inadequate unless the councils projected statistics for population growth for Saint Albans and the working population is set to decrease, which I very much doubt.

So I therefore reject the current proposal and ask you to request your planners to factor in new plans for a bigger main pool.

Supporter Mr S.M. of Bricket Wood said (27th February)...

Thanks David.. Will do my best to make next thursday. It depends on my work commitents but do keep up your " Churchillian" leadership.

David adds: "We'll fight them on the poolside ............we will never surrender!"