Shrewsbury's Quarry Swimming Pool - the public decide its future
The Quarry Swimming Pool has been a part of Shrewsbury for more than 150 years – and now after months of speculation the public are set to decide on its future.
The Shropshire Star has joined forces with Shropshire Council to launch the official consultation on the future of the town's pool.
Today we outline six options – and have given you the chance to vote online for the one you believe best serves Shrewsbury.
Our poll will form part of Shropshire Council's public consultation - see shropshire.gov.uk/swim
A decision is likely to be taken before the end of the year.
Two baths were first created on the site in the 1860s. The present building dates back to the late 1960s and was modernised when two pools were added as well as room for spectators in 1969.
And after much research Shropshire Council today revealed the long awaited options for what could be a new multi-million pound swimming pool in the town.
As part of its review the council is putting forward potential options to provide swimming facilities for Shrewsbury, with the public being asked to consider several sites outside the town centre.
Options include maintaining a pool on the current historic site – but the council is also very keen to emphasise the potential benefit practically and financially of moving to a new site.
Despite the prospect of new modern facilities at a new site there are several groups with concerns about any move away from the Quarry.
Mike Pritchard, marketing officer for Shrewsbury Sub Aqua Club, said members are worried that any new pool would not be deep enough for them to provide training.
He said: "We are very clear, we think it should be at the Quarry. It is a very safe environment, the pool is four metres in pool depth which is quite rare in the West Midlands and we need depth to train divers in a safe environment.
"It is in the centre of town so we fully support a refurbishment of the pool."
Mr Pritchard also said he felt the current venue is the most convenient for people wishing to use the pool.
He said: "The alternative is another new site where we understand the depth would be less than four metres, so we would not be able to provide out training. As a club having it in the centre of town where it is convenient for everyone is the best solution."
Two options for the future swimming provision in the town would see the Quarry pool remain as it is - one with a refurbishment, the other with a renovation.
There are also several alternatives being put forward which would see a brand new pool built either on the Quarry site or at a number of other locations in the town.
Dr Nick Richards of the Save Our Pool group has previously said he is concerned about the loss in the number of pools available to the public - currently the Quarry has four.
He said: "It is the largest swimming and fitness centre in this area of the West Midlands.
"Yes, it does need some renovation and a lick of paint, and it is not an attractive building, but it is very functional and well used by the local population.
"As a local doctor, I do strongly believe that the Quarry Swimming and Fitness Centre is needed more than ever to help our younger generation, plus working adults and older citizens of Shropshire, to feel safe in the water, as well as fit and healthy.
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council's Deputy Leader, and cabinet member with responsibility for leisure services, said: "I don't think anyone can deny the fact that the Quarry Swimming and Fitness Centre is getting very tired and that future swimming provision in the town needs some serious thought.
"Also, as it is getting older it's getting increasingly expensive to run, which poses a real challenge for us."
Three of the options focus on the existing Quarry site, the first costing £2,317,656, would see a refurbishment of the pool, the second costing £12,808,323, would see the full renovation of the pool, while the third, costing £10,989,859 would see a new build on the Quarry site.
The consultation will also ask people to consider new swimming pools at Clayton Way, Oxon, at a cost of £10,624,822, at Ellesmere Road, opposite Battlefield Enterprise Park, costing £10,941,971, or at Shrewsbury Sports Village, at a cost of £9,007,843.
A further option would see the pool built at Shrewsbury College, London Road.
Refurbishment of the Quarry would only give the site a lifespan of five years while all other options would last for between 20 and 30 years.
As a minimum Shropshire Council wants the new facility to include a main pool, with eight lanes and 25 metres long.
There would also be a learner pool, of 10 metres by 20 metres with moveable floor, a "water confidence area" of between 60 square metres and 100 square metres, a fitness suite with a minimum of 50 stations, and 250 seats for spectators.
As part of the options report produced for the consultation the choices are ranked against a checklist of Shropshire Council's "vision and principles". Three of the options, new builds at the Quarry, Shrewsbury Sports Village, and Shrewsbury College, fulfil all the criteria - although the Quarry is listed as not providing the same value for money.
Usage figure estimates show that Shrewsbury Sports Village would have the highest number with 486,846 people a year passing through its doors by the fifth year of its operation. It is also shown as the only option which would not require an annual subsidy.
George Candler, the council officer leading the review, stressed that there is no preferred option but that there would be benefits to co-locating with an existing leisure facility.
He said: "When you co-locate it means that if children are going to use the climbing wall or something else then mum or dad can go for a swim. You actually see an increase in usage when you co-locate as opposed to stand alone facilities."
Keith Barrow, leader of Shropshire Council said he was pleased they could finally ask the people of Shrewsbury for their thoughts on the plans.
He said: "I was a swimming coach for 20 years. I had swimmers at three commonwealth games, so swimming is very important to me and it is very important that we have a good facility in the county town.
"We are very excited about the options we have put together and we think we have provided people with enough information so they can make an informed decision on the best way forward.
"I see swimming as very important. It is important the youngsters learn to swim because it can save lives, and it is also great for fitness and wellbeing. The county town needs a decent swimming facility.
"I am delighted that people can read all this information and make up their own minds for what is the best option and hopefully we will have a top class swimming facility for Shrewsbury and the county - because we also need a pool that the competitive swimming clubs can use to run events and galas."
Mr Barrow also stressed that the results of the consultation will have a big influence on the outcome - with a decision expected before the end of the year.
He said: "People often feel that consultation is a process that we as a council just go through, which is why we are doing it differently.
"We have no preferred option. We are giving people all of the facts so they can decide on the future of swimming in Shrewsbury. All we ask is that people read as much of this information as they can so that they can make an informed choice.
"We genuinely want to engage with people in a different way and this is definitely something we want to continue across other council services."
Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said the current swimming facilities are in need of improvement.
He said: "I have obviously inspected the pool and facilities myself and it is simply not fit for purpose at the moment. It is dilapidated internally and externally and is in desperate need of modernisation.
"I have asked Shropshire Council to do two things, really evaluate all the options that are available and to have a genuine consultation with the public because in my view there are very polarising and contrasting opinions on this issue.
"Rarely have I in 10 years of being an MP for Shrewsbury come across an issue with so many different views and perceptions of what should be done, so I welcome the consultation and look very much forward to the outcome."
Mr Kawczynski said it is important that any new site is not a drain on the county's rate payers.
He said: "If we can build a pool which can pay for itself and not require any tax payer subsidies then that would be win-win, because it would be good for for years where we have a clean modern facility for people who use but also for the rate payers who do not have to subsidise it."
Andrew Bannerman, Shropshire Councillor who represents the Quarry area, said he would personally like to see the pool retained on the site.
He said: "From my point of view, and I am sure from a huge number of people's points of view the Quarry is an ideal site. It is easy to reach from all points of the compass and one of the great things is that we know now from our own surveys and from the Liberal Democrats survey that many people - probably about half a least - do other things when they come to the Quarry to swim. In other words the trip to town becomes a town centre trip as well as a swimming trip.
"The economic benefit of having the swimming pool in the town centre is very large so if we take that away then clearly there would be a case of how that would be compensated because it is not easy to see how you replace that.
"There are two other things, one is that people tend to access the swimming pool by foot, by bike, and by other means as well as by car so that is clearly and environmental benefit and they would not do that if the swimming pool was on certain other sites.
"Also situated as it is, it is very easy for people in the south and the west to access and this is not the case if it is moved to the north. I hope we can come up with some solution which retains the pool more or less on its present site."
Members of the public are still busy using the Quarry, which remains a favourite because of its location.
Amy Hunter, 28, of Shrewsbury, who takes her two year old son Nate swimming there said she would not like to see it move outside the town centre.
She said: "It is central and I don't drive so it is really easy to get here, where ever I am in Shrewsbury.
"I think they need to update it. It is looking a bit dated but whenever we come here it is clean and Nate's happy and that's what matters to me.
"If it wasn't here we would find a way of getting there but it would be more difficult. It think it is easy for parents that it is in town. They can drop the children off to go swimming and then go off into town."
Eileen Jones, a Shrewsbury resident who was taking her granddaughter Elspeth swimming, said: "It needs an improvement but the location is good. I have a car but unfortunately a lot of people do not so I can't see people getting out to other places."
Nina Simpson, who goes swimming with her son and daughter, Noah and Sam, said: "We have a five year old that swims here every week and a four month old who has started so it is ideal for us.
"In the summer it is lovely because we come straight from school, they can play in the park, and it's only walk from school.
"The changing rooms could do with a bit of a boost but the pool is always really clean and the staff are great."
Kerrie McMullan, who takes her two year old daughter Isabelle swimming said the proximity to the park and the town centre is a bonus for many people.
She said: "You have got the parking, the park there, it is not just the swimming."
People can view the consultation document on Shropshire Council's website from today.