Pool petition supporters trigger council debate

The prolonged closure of a town swimming pool will be discussed by councillors again next week after a petition for it to reopen was signed by hundreds of people.

Whitchurch Swimming Centre. Pic: Google Street View
Whitchurch Swimming Centre. Pic: Google Street View

Whitchurch Swimming Centre has been closed since the onset of the pandemic last March, unable to reopen in between lockdowns after Shropshire Council said the building could not be adapted to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Residents have questioned why the facility could not be adapted while others across the county were able to reopen safely, leading campaigner Nick Saxby to launch a petition demanding further action from the council to get the pool back open when the current lockdown ends.

The petition, signed by 441 people, requests the council to “make Whitchurch Swimming Centre usable, work with contractors and partners to develop solutions for adapting the centre for social distancing, and engage with the community on the obstacles to opening the pool”.

Mr Saxby said: “I’m very happy that the committee has chosen to discuss the petition. “I think the people of Whitchurch have raised some entirely legitimate concerns. There is overwhelming support for the pool in the town.

Safeguarding

“The issue has never been a disagreement that the swimming centre is not compliant with social distancing, but rather the apparent lack of plan for the council to adapt it to be so. The new lockdown measures and heightened crisis with Covid mean that the swimming centre won’t be opening any time soon, and that is completely right to safeguard public health.

“However, the pool could have been an important resource for people’s wellbeing throughout the pandemic, outside of the lockdown measures. We are still yet to hear what extensive investigations took place for how to make the centre usable.

“I think people need to see that their council has been doing everything they can to provide this important service for Whitchurch’s wellbeing.”

The petition will be discussed by the council’s performance management scrutiny committee at a meeting on Wednesday(20).

Councillor Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for leisure, said ways to make the centre Covid-safe had been explored, assuring users that the council was not keeping it shut “unnecessarily or to be awkward”.

Councillor Picton added: “However, given that the building simply does not enable the essential social distancing rules to be put in place and followed, it would be irresponsible for us to reopen Whitchurch Swimming Centre at this time putting people at unnecessary and avoidable risk.

“We appreciate that this is disappointing but the safety of local people and their families is paramount.”

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