Graham West looks at the prospect of Romney Marsh ever getting a community pool.pool plan
It’s a debate that has been going on for many years and probably will go on for many more years; it is something that local politicians often promise, but never deliver and there is a reason for this, the cost.
The Looker decided to look into the prospect of a new swimming pool for the area and get to the bottom of the story to find out the truth behind some of the claims that have been circulating on social media.
Ideas for a local swimming pool have been bandied around for years, in fact, a new pool for Lydd was proposed in the early 70’s and even got as far as a large hole in the ground with a concrete liner going in at Robin Hood Lane. This soon fell by the wayside, and after a number of years the hole was filled in and is now the site of the new community hall.
Marsh Academy leisure centre was also a possible location with many thinking an ideal position for a pool, but this has never been a viable option, as Jason Mahoney, leisure centre manager, explained to The Looker last year, stating that ‘it is not the initial cost of building the pool, which could be done for between £2-4 million but the real cost is the running costs, which for a pool about the size of Hythe would equate to about £10,000 per week. This is based on the cost of staffing the pool, chemicals and of course, the main cost of heating the pool.’
So in other words, just to break even, the pool would need to attract 2000 swimmers per week or put another way, about 285 every day for 365 days a year. When The Looker asked people how often they might use a local pool, the majority said about once a month, which appears to make it just not a viable option.
Many have asked ‘couldn’t we get a grant from Sports England or from Roger DeHaans charitable trust’? It appears however that Sports England have not invested in any ‘new build’ pools for over 6 years, as they claim it is very hard to make a sustainable financial model.
When any grant funding is sourced there are many qualifying questions that need to be satisfied including…
Supply and demand issues: Identify the issues of supply and demand that need to be addressed by any proposals for building new pools.
Strategic consideration: Identify if the site or sites are a priority for swimming provision or other complementary activity in local plans or strategies. (For example; are there proposals for new sports halls, schools or health facilities?)
Type, level and amount of activity: Identify the types of activities e.g. competition, training; the level of use such as community use, regional club use; and how much time and space will be needed.
Appraisal: The business case and value for money appraisal, this step brings together all the information collected, the decisions made and determines whether there is a viable sport and business case.
With councils having to make cuts to local finance the chances of any local council agreeing to put finance into a pool seems very unlikely. People have asked the question about the proposed new pool at Hythe; this is a very different problem, the main reason the council want to build a new pool is to sell the existing site for re development. One of the best arguments would be for the new pool not to go to Princes Parade but be built at Nichols Quarry, as the catchment area would then include the Marsh, to the benefit of more people.
If you want access to a local swimming pool, use your district councillor. They can lobby Shepway to have the pool relocated. This may well be the only solution to having a pool on the Marsh.