WHO'S TELLING THE TRUTH?
June, 2016. 18 months after closure, the Temple Cowley Pools building still stood empty and unused. The pools had been drained, otherwise the building remained in excellent condition despite no maintenance. Remember, this is the building that the Labour-controlled city council claimed was at 'risk of imminent catastrophic failure' so had to be shut. And, oh yes, meanwhile over at the new Blackbird Leys Swimming Pool that cost over £13m of our money - guess what - it's leaking!!
Back at Temple Cowley Pools, Catalyst have finally submitted their planning application - apparently it's a 'done deal'. If developers ever wanted to know how to 'persuade' a planning committee to approve their application, this is it. Offer the Council cash - in this case, £3.6m, if they approve the application - which is now in, awaiting a rubber stamp of approval from the Council Planning Department. No conflict of interest there then. We'll see what happens as the planning process proceeds - but with Labour (and only Labour) refusing to allow the community to take over the site and run it for the people, and with all committees now stacked with a Labour majority, we fully anticipate Catalyst's application to be waved through by the committees. And then we'll be into a legal challenge.
And at the moment Catalyst, supported, encouraged and actually TOLD by the Council (now we've found the incriminating emails we can prove it), have started demolition. ILLEGALLY. Before they have the planning application approved. Is this right? Particularly when the Save Temple Cowley Pools Campaign is ready, willing and able to take over the site, run the centre profitably at no cost to the taxpayer, or the City Council, and build flats as well. Even Catalyst's planners and architects thought it was a better plan than theirs. But still they doggedly persist in pursuing taking away a health and fitness facility - denying 40,000 of the population appropriate access to exercise affordably in a gym, swimming pool, studio, sauna/steam suite and yes, the only diving pool in Oxfordshire. Shame on Labour councillors for ignoring the whole truth and voting as they are told - shame on Oxford City Council officers for not doing what they are paid to do - provide facilities that the public want and need, where they want and need them.
The ideal result is still for the Council and Catalyst Housing (or another housing association if they don't want to play) to work with the community through the SaveTCP CIC to retain the Temple Cowley Pools main hall, and integrate new housing and community facilities into a rebuilt 'dryside' area. This is all still possible, and those in control need to realise that it is simply THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
We are honoured that Peggy Seeger has chosen to help the Campaign to Save Temple Cowley Pools over many years. She has contributed time and energy, writing a song for the Campaign, speaking in Council and renouncing her Labour Party membership, and including us in interviews on national radio. Read a review of one of her concerts here.
Now in our SEVENTH year of campaigning, with massive continuing public support - the City Council wanted Temple Cowley Pools shut over three years ago, but you have all helped keep TCP open until last December. During that additional time users enjoyed more than half a million more visits, we exposed the Council propaganda as a combination of Inaccurate, Incomplete, Misleading and Untrue, and played our part in getting the right to video at Council meetings.
The decision to sell the site to a commercial developer, Catalyst, has been taken and the Labour Council has closed yet another facility in Cowley. The exact conditions in the contract remain murky, demonstrating yet again the lack of openness and transparency when Oxford City Council decides not to work with the public they are there to serve.
But the Campaign continues into 2015, challenging the decisions, confronting the propaganda and working every way we can so that the community can again have the facilities it wants and needs, where it wants and needs them, in Cowley.
The local media have noticed that it’s been three months since the Labour Council’s decision to finally close Temple Cowley Pools and sell the site to Catalyst for housing development, apparently guaranteeing them planning permission for twice the permitted housing density, breaching the Council’s own core policies.
There is a three month time limit on bringing Judicial Review proceedings. The Campaign announced on hearing about the closure, and to a council meeting, that our preferred option would be to work with a housing association to keep health and fitness facilities where they are needed in Cowley (remembering that you can’t swim in a gym, however new and good it may be). However, the Council doggedly refused to entertain any sort of discussion with us, leaving our only option to be a legal route. Over the last twelve weeks we have explored all sorts of possible options – unlike the council, if the public donate money to the Campaign we feel obliged to use it in the best possible way.
We certainly could have taken the Council to Judicial Review, but winning our case would not have changed things. The Council has committed to a contract with Catalyst that can’t be unpicked easily, and a judge, whatever the merits of a case, will find it difficult to order the contract to be undone.
So, we are looking to the next stage, where Catalyst has to make a planning application for their development. The Labour-controlled City Council has breached its own core policies in promising Catalyst twice the housing density it is supposed to allow anywhere else in the city. Catalyst have apparently been promised they will get planning permission in exchange for £3.6m. The exact deal remains shrouded in mystery, despite the Council claiming it is open and transparent. Both correspondence and the formal Freedom of Information requests have been either ignored or resulted in differing views on the ‘arrangement’ which don’t seem to fit together.
In closing Temple Cowley Pools, the Labour City Council has actively and willingly destroyed a community, against the clear wishes of the people they have been elected to serve.
We believe this is unfair, unjust, illegal and totally against the wishes of the Temple Cowley community. This is where we are focusing now. We will need legal support, so please give what you can – see our Donations page for details on how you can help.
The Labour Council's decision to sell the Temple Cowley Pools site and their closure of the centre at 4pm on 23rd December 2014 presents them with a huge risk. The Council's "Core Strategy" contains a number of policies with which any council decision must comply. The closure clearly breaches CS21 (page 105), which states:
In other parts of the UK, individuals have defied their council, mortgaged their houses to go to Judicial Review, and won - forcing the council to rebuild and reopen their health and fitness facility. The Labour led Oxford City Council need to be aware that they have acted against the wishes of the people who elected them, and we will continue to work to keep health, fitness and community facilities in Temple Cowley even if the Council proceeds to demolish the centre.
The Save Temple Cowley Pools Campaign has been fighting since 2009 to keep open the Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre in Temple Road, Oxford, condemned to closure by Oxford City Council. The Council rushed to close the site at 4pm on 23rd December 2014, without any notice to the public, and boarded up the centre with people still swimming in it!
We have huge support across Oxford to keep the centre open, including the first petition that reached over 12,000 signatures before we stopped - the largest in Oxford, simply ignored by the administration. We've continued with a succession of petitions that show people's frustration with the City Council. Petition number 8 was debated at the Council meeting in November 2014.
During December 2014, the Council continued to defy public opinion, voting in an all-Labour City Executive Board meeting to go with a commercial developer wanting to put 47 dwellings and 53 car park spaces on the site. Our community Social Enterprise proposal, presented by the SaveTCP community interest company, was dismissed without any public discussion, and without us being told what the council would find acceptable. Our proposal represents £20m annual value delivered to the community, and the council has defied its voters and shown it is simply not interested. The Greens called in the decision to Scrutiny Committee on 23rd December, and despite Green and LibDem support, the 3 councillors were not about to turn over the well managed and "on message" 8 Labour councillors who knew what they had to do, so the decision stands - for now.
At 4pm on the 23rd December 2014 the Council closed TCP - the Campaign continues to challenge the Council decisions and work to keep the facilities the Cowley community wants and needs, where they want and need them.
Please browse these pages for lots more information and background. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, comments and/or to add your name to our email list.
We also appear on Twitter @SaveTCP (see rhs of this page for our Twitter feed) and on Facebook.
Get involved! All your Labour councillors are ignoring the views of the people they were elected to serve. The Council needs to be constantly challenged because it is determined to get its way and is continually putting out information that we demonstrate time and again is a combination of MISLEADING, INACCURATE, INCOMPLETE and UNTRUE.
What a brilliant demonstration of support to keep Temple Cowley Pools open! Nearly 40 people turned up at almost no notice, many dressed ready to swim, only to find that the Labour-controlled Oxford City Council had closed the centre, without any notice. Who would have thought it - what a way to treat the public you've been elected to represent.
Here are some pictures of the event from Sunday 18th Jan, 2015 - you can see them shivering with cold - well done and thanks!
Wow - is all we can say. Overwhelmed by the numbers who gave up a Saturday evening on the 17th Jan 2015 to come along and find out how our Labour City Council chose not to discuss the community proposal, and what the Campaign and community is now doing to challenge the decision and keep health and fitness facilities in Temple Cowley. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to attend and show your support. Brilliant. See below for more info and the presentation from the evening.
You all know that the Labour-controlled Oxford City Council, in the face of massive continuing public opposition, closed Temple Cowley Pools without any warning at 4pm on 23rd December. The Save Temple Cowley Pools Campaign and the SaveTCP community interest company have been considering the implications of the closure and what can be done to keep health and fitness facilities inside the ring road in East Oxford, where people have said they want and need them.
Everyone was invited to this Public Meeting to hear:
Well, you came to the meeting, as many as the last one in November - THANK YOU! Huge interest in and commitment to keep Temple Cowley Pools part of the Temple Cowley landscape. Here are the slides from the meeting.
A quick update on the Scrutiny Committee meeting held on the 23rd December. Thanks to both Green councillors, Craig Simmons and Sam Hollick, and LibDem Altaf Khan for voting to refer the decision back to the City Executive Board. Also thanks to the LibDem PPC for East Oxford Mark Mann for speaking in support of the community proposal. It was sadly a predictable and foregone conclusion that, watched over by the CEB Chair and Labour Leader Bob Price, all the Labour councillors voted as one - to do nothing. So another City Executive Board was unnecessary.
The option to proceed with Catalyst Housing is a huge risk to the Council, totally ignored by the previous CEB and today's meeting:
1. The 47 dwellings being planned (a mix of houses and flats apparently, no-one's seen the plans) is twice the density permitted on the site
2. The Council's Core Strategy Policy 21 says 'Planning permission will only be granted for development resulting in the loss of existing sports…facilities…if no deficiency is created in the area”
The SaveTCP community interest company is also disappointed at the Council's refusal to talk to us about how our proposal could work, despite the promises of Labour councillors that we would be given a fair hearing. As a result we have made a formal complaint about how our community proposal has not had the opportunity to be fairly considered.
What's different this time from the many previous council meetings? We'd like to take a small amount of credit for being one of the many organisations and campaigners throughout the UK who successfully lobbied for legislation to force councils like Oxford to allow their meetings to be filmed. So, both meetings will be on the web shortly so you can see for yourselves what actually happened. We intend providing a commentary against each to demonstrate, as we always have done since the Campaign started, that everything the Council says on this issue is a combination of Inaccurate, Incomplete, Misleading and Untrue... More to come - keep watching.
Firstly, we'd like to thank all the people who took the time to come to the meeting - the packed meeting room underlined the massive popular support to keep Temple Cowley Pools open.
We were naturally disappointed with the result, but not surprised given that it was this same committee that voted to close Temple Cowley Pools in the first place.
And we were surprised that the Labour councillors showed not sign of supporting a Social Enterprise that is no cost or risk to the council. It has to be of great concern to people of East Oxford that the councillors did not discuss the 'bigger' issues that the SaveTCP cic proposal represents:
And having said they wanted to give us every chance to present the benefits of our proposal, instead of the positive discussion we expected around what the council would find acceptable in terms of a price, timing and plan, we were subjected to a series of carefully orchestrated questions around carbon emissions (where we've already demonstrated many times before how efficient Temple Cowley Pools is) and volunteer scheduling, as well as vague comments such as they expected much more detail from us. In a fifteen minute presentation - were they really serious? The conclusion can only be that they were playing lip service to their process, going through the motions to rubber stamp a decision already made. As usual with a City Executive Board, no discussion, just a decision.
It remains unfortunate that the Council remains unwilling to discuss in any way how a community social enterprise could take over and operate a facility that the council doesn't want to run.
Thanks to the Green Party councillors who spoke on our behalf, particularly highlighting the wider issues that our proposal represents. And to Cllr Simmons, who as Chair of Scrutiny Committee has called in the decision. This means the discussion moves to the Scrutiny Committee meeting on 23rd December. Watch this space for more information...
SAVETCP CIC is a Community Interest Company registered in the United Kingdom with the Company reg no 09002684. Registered address is Oxford Greenprint Room 1/oarc East Oxford Community Centre, Princes Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. Further information here