Save Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre!

 
The Campaign to Save Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre!

Headlines - the Least You Need to Know!

Ok, you're pushed for time, we understand. Here are some very quick facts. More detail below and elsewhere on the website that explains and supports all of this:

Oxford City Council closed down Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre and the existing swimming pool at Blackbird Leys on 23rd December 2014 - with people still inside the building...
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The Council claims that both these facilities are replaced by the new pool at Blackbird Leys, but this contravenes their own planning policy which says that any replacement must be in the vicinity.

The public, through the community interest company SaveTCP cic, asked the Council for a Community Asset Transfer to take over running Temple Cowley Pools. The Council refused, preferring instead a 'deal' with Catalyst Housing Association, whereby the Council will grant planning permission for housing at twice the permitted density in exchange for £3.6m - this is not fair, or democratic, or what people want. And it won't go anywhere close to solving the housing crisis.

The Council has ignored overwhelming public opinion and has built the most expensive swimming pool in the UK.

 

The new pool at Blackbird Leys is not Olympic length, and is designed for a 25 year life. Temple Cowley Pools, built in 1986, was designed for a 50-60 year lifespan. And, oh yes, less than a year after it's been opened, the ceiling is leaking!!


The new pool is only the same size as Temple Cowley’s current pool, 25m, and does not have what people have said they would like in a new facility, such as flumes and other fun activities.


Temple Cowley Pools has the only publicly funded diving pool in Oxfordshire.

 

The figures quoted by the Council for building the new pool are inaccurate.

The figures quoted by the Council for renovating and running Temple Cowley Pools are inaccurate.


Temple Cowley Pools was the most energy efficient of Oxford's wet/dry leisure centres.


Like-for-like the carbon emissions at the  new pool will be nearly double those at Temple Cowley Pools (300 compared to 180 tonnes CO2 equivalent pa).


The carbon cost of building the new pool is huge, at 1850 tonnes CO2 equivalent.

 

The decision to close Temple Cowley Pools was unsound. A Judicial Review in 2012 found that the Council had not consulted with the public properly, but apparently that doesn't matter as the Campaign did such a good job at publicising people's views. Another Judicial Review in 2013 supported Town Green status for Blackbird Leys, which would prevent the pool being built. In both cases, the Council threatened huge costs to bully people into dropping the legal process instead of listening and responding to the people they are supposed to serve.


The Council has consistently misled councillors and the public with inaccurate information.

 

18 bus services pass close to Temple Cowley Pools, only two go to Blackbird Leys (and they are on the same route).

Since the closure, people who used to use Temple Cowley Pools regularly say they are not able, for various reasons, to get to the pool in Blackbird Leys. The Council is trumpeting how successful the new pool is, because the numbers to the new centre are "high" and there are waiting lists for classes. They have not asked the people what they think - users are forced to go there because there is nowhere else, it takes them longer, they have to use a car, and there are waiting lists for classes - this is not success, it just demonstrates how much Temple Cowley Pools is still needed!

 

Temple Cowley Pools is inside the ring road, easily accessible to most of East Oxford

The proposed new pool is outside the ring road, and very much less accessible

 

If Oxford City Council succeeds in closing Temple Cowley Pools, the operators Fusion will increase their profits by getting rid of over 30 staff and saving over £1m a year.

Closing Temple Cowley Pools and selling the site for housing will mean more people in an area with fewer and fewer facilities.

The area around Temple Cowley has seen the biggest population increase in Oxford over the last ten years - 31%

Oxford City Council ignored the largest paper petition in its history, over 12,000 signatures, that demanded Temple Cowley Pools be kept open. And also the other seven petitions since then - we have more signatures on our petitions than Labour has votes for its thumping majority on the Council.

Latest Position - August 2013

The Campaign carries on. The Council has continued to ignore the need for services inside the ring road in East Oxford. It announced in mid-July that they were starting work. The publicity photos were councillors with the swimming club. No-one from Blackbird Leys. First action was to put up a fence around the site. The following Monday the fence was down - locals having their say. And now into August and the Council has started by felling the trees that are in their way. A real shame that the green space is going, without the consent of the residents.

And 

The discussions over the potential Judicial Review continue, and while they do as the Council continues to spend public funds, they are guilty of maladministration. Judicial Review remains a real prospect. And rather than engage properly, the council legal department are refusing to respond to emails. Disgraceful and highly unprofessional, in our view.


Timescales are extending again - Council now says the proposed new pool will be open at the end of 2014. So the planned closure moves back to the first months of 2015.


And what of Temple Cowley Pools? It continues to be well-used, new people constantly signing up for inductions in the gym. And the Council continues to run the services there down as much as it can. Not fixing air conditioning, not repairing toilet doors, or lockers when the mechanisms fail, or unblocking sinks.

to add to the irony, the Council invite Tom Daley's diving partner and olympic medallist Pete Waterfield to open an outdoor table tennis event - while planning to close the same sort of diving pool that gave Pete his chance to reach the Olympic heights. Remember, Temple Cowley Pools has the only public diving pool in the whole of Oxfordshire. And the Campaign carries on, regardless of how much of our money the Council is wasting over at Blackbird Leys.

The Decision

The decisions made by the council at the City Executive Board on 1st September 2010 to proceed to the tender stage for a new pool at BLLC and finally in July 2011 to build the proposed new pool and to close TCP were unsafe and unsound because the council hasn’t provided all the information, has provided misleading information and has hidden behind the Fusion contract confidentiality. When challenged on each of the points raised below, the council has been unable to answer them. The Council wishes to proceed for what looks like a total cost of over £13m to build a new non-Olympic only-25m swimming pool in a place where there's no evidence of demand, while making cuts to frontline services across the city, and ignoring the option of refurbishing Temple Cowley Pools through self-funding.

 

Guide to Abbreviations

TCP - Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre - the leisure centre we want to save, located where people want and need it, in Temple Cowley

BLP - Blackbird Leys Pool - the existing swimming pool in Blackbird Leys, the one the Council wants to forget about, along with its users

BLLC - Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre - the much underused Leisure Centre at Blackbird Leys, hyped by £2.3m of investment in a Spin Studio to boost figures and make things look better than they really are

Lack of Democracy

The Save Temple Cowley Pools & Fitness Centre petition is the largest ever in the city of Oxford. This is a significant statement of what the people want – blatantly ignored by the council.

Value for Money

The cost of a leisure centre must be balanced with the amenity it provides. A white elephant costing us only £150k pa (once built) is not value for money – well-used facilities easily accessible from a number of communities, properly maintained and operated for the public good not private profit, are.

 

There is a continuing exchange of councillors and the council claiming variously that it costs £100k or over £500k a year to maintain TCP - the figures from the council accounts show:

1. Maintenance cost to the City Council for TCP last year was £87k (remember this is a whole leisure centre, not just a swimming pool)

2. Payments to fusion were about £250k - this is a completely arbitrary figure and doesn't represent any 'real' costs. It's just a way of being able to say the TCP costs are high. In the meantime, the operators Fusion get all the admission money from the 200,000+ visits a year.

"Multi-faceted User Experience"

This phrase is one used by the council to describe what most normal people would say as 'going for a swim' or visiting the gym.

 

The council says that a new swimming pool at BLLC will provide an enhanced user experience. People visit leisure centres to swim, go to the gym, or do other forms of exercise or leisure. This is what people do at TCP already, but they often combine visiting TCP with visiting the library, surgery, Templars Square and the Retail Park. This "experience" is not possible at BLLC.

 

At the proposed new pool there will be no diving facilities; there is a small library, and a few shops for the estate, but nothing to entice them as part of a visit to an area, like the new Sainsbury's in the John Allen centre, or Templars Square. So what else will people be able to do in the area?

Disabled Access

TCP is already compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) – it could be improved, as could all older facilities. A new pool at BLLC will offer no greater access than TCP.

Arguably TCP offers a more sympathetic experience for the disabled, as there are steps and a handrail leading into the water, enabling users to preserve their dignity rather than use a hoist.

Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre is Underused

In 2010 BLLC was running at only 30% of capacity, and the council hopes that it will prevent it becoming a white elephant by pouring money into it. People in the locality didn't fully use it (or the Blackbird Leys Swimming Pool). But the council has spent over £2m on a new Spinning Studio and remodelling the reception area to fit with the design of the proposed new pool. Numbers have increased significantly with new activities such as more exercise classes and Spinning. However, the underlying underuse is still present. Shamefully, the Council did not carry out proper consultation and has not established what demand there is in Blackbird Leys for the new pool. This all points to it being underused by the locality in future.

Forecast Usage

After refusing to provide forecasts of usage, claiming "confidentiality", the council finally convinced Fusion to do so - coincidentally, just in time for the Scrutiny Committee at the end of 2010. The council now say that BLLC inc the new pool will attract 375,000-400,000 visits a year.

 

We pointed out that the then current total actual visits to TCP, BLLC and BLP was about 450,000, so the council is building a new pool that costs millions and fewer visits!

 

Also, this forecast from Fusion was a desk-based estimate based on standard usage metrics for building a new pool in a green field site. We challenged the Council to do the same forecast for the TCP site; they refused, saying there would be no point.

 

There are times when you simply can't make things up - it is quite obvious that if you put a facility more centrally in a city, inside the ring road and adjacent to a 'transport hub' (as the Temple Cowley area is) then the forecast will be much higher than in Blackbird Leys. It doesn't suit the Council argument, so they don't do it. And they should be providing a public service for people, where people want and need it.

Private Profit

The Council will pay Fusion £150,000 a year to operate a new pool at BLLC. Fusion will take all of the income from visitors  If the visitor numbers mean that Fusion don't make a profit, they can walk away, leaving the Council, and the council taxpayers, with a white elephant to fund, when it should be in a better place, in Temple Cowley. And the £150,000 a year payment is only guaranteed a maximum of five years, when the Fusion contract ends anyway. The council has no certainty as to what it will cost us all after that.

 

Closing TCP and BLP will enable Fusion to get rid of jobs and increase their profit even further. We have estimated that over 30 jobs will go; Fusion originally challenged back, claiming that they would not be making anyone redundant. We justified our claim back to them, and have heard nothing since.

Existing TCP Users

Our survey shows that 7,000 of the existing users will be unable, because of time or cost, to be able to get to BLLC. The council is ignoring and abandoning them, cares more about money than offering leisure facilities to its council taxpayers, and intends to withdraw all public leisure inside the ring road in east and south Oxford.


As part of the decision taken by CEB in July 2011, the Council was going to seek to support similar (but not swimming or diving) facilities in the Temple Cowley area. The first attempt was to get the Lord Nuffield centre interested, but that went bankrupt owing millions, and is now likely to be turned into a school.


The council then, without any consultation or reference in the budget, allocated £200k to improving and upgrading the gym facilities at Spires Academy. This is apparently so that the gym can be used by members of the public out of school hours. There is no information about exactly what these hours would be, or who would operate the gym (the school? Fusion?), or how child protection would be enforced, or what it would cost for admission, or how much the Council would pay to Fusion each year etc etc.... However, talking to users at Temple Cowley gym they think it is a barmy idea and a complete waste of money, especially the many people who want to use a gym during the day!

Flood Risk

TCP is not at risk of flooding – BLLC is according to the latest Environment Agency research. A final contingency cost has been added into the overall build cost of £350k. Although it is implied that this is for legal costs caused by those pesky Campaign people, the real reason is because when they dug a pilot hole at Blackbird Leys it filled with water, and there is now an additional cost to cater for that.

Schools

Nine schools use BLP, three use TCP. They won’t have enough time to share the pool. And there won’t be as much public swimming time as there is at present. And the pupils at the three schools using TCP will lose classroom time, have extra travelling and won't be able to use the library on their swimming visits. And someone will have to pay for the additional transport.

The answer? The council is now proposing to include a movable floor to accommodate all the lessons. Well, this is an additional cost over and above the £8.5m cost to build, at least £350,000 more.

We have asked to see a timetable demonstrating how all existing and future needs will be accommodated; the answer is that they haven't done it yet, and rely on the professionals ie Fusion to come up with suitable programming at some point in the future.

Bias

The council has only offered one option, and commissioned a biased and unbalanced ‘Feasibility Study’ – the closure of both TCP and BLP and the Swimming Club are threatened if BLLC does not go ahead.

At the public meeting in August 2011, when despite very short notice the Town Hall main meeting room was packed with people, MACE presented the Feasibility Study; the public demanded to hear the alternative option to refurbish TCP and BLP, developed by a Campaign member. There was a vote at the end of the meeting that overwhelmingly (95%+) wanted the refurbishment option. Ignored by the Council.

Accessibility

TCP is only 0.7 miles from the ring road and just off a main route with only 100 yards of residential housing set back from the road. BLLC is inaccessible from Sandy Lane anti-clockwise (the council claims it is), and is 1.2 miles from the ring road at the BMW roundabout of which 0.6 miles is 20mph speed limit in a built-up area.

Public Transport

Eighteen (18) bus services pass through Temple Cowley close to TCP; only 2 (also travelling through Temple Cowley) go to BLLC. Which site is more accessible by public transport from anywhere in Oxford?

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings are measured by gas and electricity usage. On the 2010 figures per square metre, Barton and Ferry both emit nearly 50% more than TCP. TCP emissions could be significantly reduced through two simple measures – sort out the power matching (20% of electricity wasted at present) and fit pool covers.

Car Park Spaces

Parking is currently free, and used heavily for school run (to St Christophers school) and unofficia ‘park and ride’. A barrier/token system would eliminate this issue.

Age of the Pool

The council tells us that TCP is near its ‘end of life’, and gives various ages for it, sometimes back to the 1930s. Wrong. TCP in its present form was opened in 1986. The council’s condition survey, repeated in the Mace report, says TCP is in ‘fair’ condition and ‘midlife’. The maintenance TCP needs is because the council has not kept maintaining it properly for ten years. The whole leisure centre costs under £100k pa to maintain; the proposed new pool alone will cost the council £150k pa. Faringdon Leisure Centre has been operating for 20 years and shows no sign of needing to be replaced.

Maintenance

The council claims that there is a maintenance backlog of £2.3m at TCP before any improvements can be made, with a pillar and air handling unit being the most critical. The council claims that TCP is at increasing risk of “catastrophic failure”. The council’s own Condition Survey rates TCP as in “fair” condition and at “midlife”. FOI on the £2.3m backlog reveals that the pillar would cost only £30k to repair, and the air handling unit only £750.

TCP Land for Student Housing

The council wants to sell the TCP land for housing to Oxford Brookes University at a knockdown price of only £1.5m. This was the original plan, because to fund the proposed new pool at BLLC the Council said it needed £1.5m from the sale of the TCP land. Independent local developers have valued the land at £4-6m.
As well as benefiting the University, this would open the way to closing the library for yet more housing. It would also enable the access road to be widened, leading through to St Christopher's school playing fields - no doubt an attempt would be made to build houses on there as well.

There is, however, a slight problem. Brookes has been expanding at a rate of knots for several years, especially with foreign students. Universities only make money at the moment from student accommodation and foreign students, preferably together because then the students don't know in advance they are being ripped off. Over the last year, Brooke's has not been able to fully occupy all its accommodation, so the need for new housing so far away from the campus has to be questionable.

The TCP land has now been designated in the Planning Strategy as domestic housing, although of course that could all be changed if the Council wanted to.

The Fusion Contract

The contract with Fusion, who operates the leisure centres for the council, commits a capital investment from the Council of £6m. The council claims it saves £7m over 10 years, but the contract says that they have to invest £6m of this in improvements (but not in TCP or BLP), so the saving is only £100,000 a year. Fusion believes they will make more money from BLLC, so the contract offers financial benefits if the council closes TCP.

 

Bigger, Better Facilities

A common myth is that a new pool at BLLC would be Olympic size (50m), with sauna, flumes and other entertainments. Wrong. In fact, the proposed pool will be the same size as TCP, 25m x 8 lanes. No diving pool, no steam room - there will be a learner pool, and a paddling pool with water sprays. And they have shoehorned an inadequate sauna into a cupboard as an afterthought. The pool will certainly be new, but only designed to last 25 years, not 50 years or more like TCP.

Previous Updates so you can Compare - we are Open and Transparent, unlike...

Latest Position - July 2013

The Campaign carries on. The Council has continued to ignore the need for services inside the ring road in East Oxford, and is planning to start building the proposed new swimming pool in Blackbird Leys in, originally early July, but now looking like early August. They have given an undertaking that they will keep TCP open until Autumn 2014 - the Campaign's objective is to keep it open longer than that.

Since the decision was taken in July 2011 to build the proposed new pool and close TCP, circumstances have changed. When this happens, a local authority has a legal obligation to review its decision. At present, Labour-controlled Oxford City Council is ignoring this legal obligation. We have started formal communication with the Council challenging them on this obligation; this could well lead to another Judicial Review.

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