We can't lose this much-loved pool
September 07 2020
The popular Jubilee Pool in Knowle is again facing closure.
Campaigners say the proposals by Bristol City Council and Mayor Marvin Rees will deny local communities a much-loved and well-used pool which, in non-Covid times, is profitable.
The council says ongoing costs and measures to make it secure, along with limited opportunities to develop the facility further, mean it is not financially viable.
The alternative is the pool at Hengrove Leisure Centre which campaigners say presents travel problems. As a pool for competitive swimmers, Hengrove is also much colder than Jubilee and less attractive for leisure swimmers, children, families and those who use it for therapeutic reasons.
The Bristol South pool in Southville has been closed since last autumn due to maintenance work, with November the earliest likely re-opening date according to their Facebook page.
Jubilee Pool was built in 1937 and had a small gym added in 2012. This is the third time it has been threatened with closure – with the Friends of Jubilee Pool successfully fighting to save the facility in 2017.
A petition has been launched, with around 4,500 signatories as we went to press, calling for it to remain open and campaigners have been active on Facebook.
The petition reads:"Pre-Covid the pool was operating at a profit and without subsidy but more importantly it is vital for local health and wellbeing.
"The Covid threat to operating is real but can be managed at a modest cost and will last only until a vaccine is found. Best scientific opinion says that is likely to be in the first half of next year. It would be criminal negligence to let a vital community resource slip away because the council has a short-term finance problem.
"We note with sadness the failure of the council to maintain and recognise that a small capital investment is needed to protect it for the next 20 years and would support a local not-for-profit trust taking over if the council is unable to.
"Jubilee Swimming Pool is a well-used, much loved and vital community resource for local health and wellbeing. It provides leisure facilities within walking distance for all demographics of citizens in Knowle.
"It is a heritage building and a unique survivor of formerly common Bristol swimming pools.
"It represents the last remaining operational 1930s(Baths Committee approved) swimming pools in Bristol.
"It is a place where people meet, share experiences of learning to swim and keep fit and healthy. A variety of classes are held here and there are elderly swimmers at the pool who still use it, decades after learning to swim there as children."
Knowle councillor Gary Hopkins said:"It is appalling what the Mayor wants to do with Jubilee.
"This pool was making a small profit prior to Covid and would only need a subsidy of £15,000 per month until the pandemic is over. This is in comparison to figures we have seen that suggest Hengrove will need £1m to see it through Covid."
Cllr Hopkins said the estimated £260,000 needed to modernise Jubilee was lower than for any other pool in Bristol.
He added:"In practice, for local people, going to Hengrove is very difficult. Most people walk or cycle to Jubilee.
"In addition, the number of kids who learn to swim in Jubilee is staggering and this is absolutely vital."
Cllr Hopkins said his Lib Dem group was confident of support from opposition councillors and some Labour members and will be raising a motion at a meeting in October. There will also be a council discussion this month.
In these pages, Labour councillor Jon Wellington said:"Clearly(closure) is not a proposal that I can support, and along with Labour candidates and other councillors in the local area I have written to the Mayor to voice our objections, and I hope to meet with him soon to raise further concerns.
"The only alternative I could support is for the council to commit to a new facility within reasonable walking distance of the existing pool."
l Councillor views: Page 35
A city council spokesperson said:"As part of an ongoing commitment to maintaining high quality swimming facilities in Bristol - and alongside concerns raised by the operator about mounting costs to run the facility - the council is proposing closing Jubilee Pool in Knowle.
"The proposal follows significant investment in leisure facilities in the south of Bristol, and the ongoing challenges presented by Covid-19 to safely re-open swimming pools and gyms.
"Due to the size and age of the building, a minimum of £260,000 was already needed to allow the building to function and prevent further deterioration.
"Added to this would be the costs of making Covid-secure adaptions to ensure the building can operate safely.
"Parkwood Leisure, the operator, has worked with the council to assess all options but determined the facility has no long-term viable option for operating cost effectively.
"The site has no parking and very limited space which also prevents a challenge for the operator to create enough revenue to support the ongoing management of the pool."
Mr Rees said: “Any future decision on the pool will be taken with community needs and feelings considered fully. These will have to be considered alongside elements such as wider access to similar facilities where we have invested, in Hengrove and Bristol South, the sustainability of the pool and our financial position. A consultation runs until October 7, seeking the views of local residents and those who use Jubilee Pool.
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, said: “As part of our strategy we must carefully balance the needs of the whole community with the costs to taxpayers and ensure we invest in sustainable and higher quality swimming facilities.
"We believe that the closure of Jubilee Pool is the best option, ensuring that users are aware of the facilities available to them at nearby Hengrove and Bristol South."
Parkwood Leisure, which manages Jubilee Pool, has been financially supported by the council to offset lost revenue during the closure.
Jubilee Pool will be remaining shut during the consultation period.
Responses to the consultation can be given online at www.bristol.gov.uk/jubileepool.
The petition is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-jubilee-pool