Campaigners seeking to reopen Ipswich's Broomhill Pool are lodging a final appeal to the three partners to try to close the funding gap that is preventing its restoration.

Funding for the restoration has already been pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Fusion Lifestyle, which would run the pool as a leisure centre, and Ipswich Council which still owns it.

But the effects of the pandemic lockdowns and now rising inflation have meant that a funding gap has opened - and the Broomhill Trust is appealing to the partners to work together to close that.

A total of £7m has already been pledged for the project - £3.4m from HLF, £1.5m from the borough and the rest from Fusion Lifestyle. 

Ipswich Star: Broomhill pool on a summer's day in 1975.Broomhill pool on a summer's day in 1975. (Image: Archant)

That was enough to get the project up and running, and work had been scheduled to start in the spring of 2020. 

However Covid forced a delay and Fusion Lifestyle was forced to close its leisure centres across the country for the best part of two years - forcing the plans to be put on ice.

The effects of inflation meant that the costs had increased substantially, and an extra grant was applied for as part of Ipswich's bid for Levelling Up funding.

Last week's news that the government had rejected Ipswich's application for funding - including up to £2m for Broomhill - has been seen as a hammer blow to the project and could lead to the withdrawal of the offer from the HLF.

Ipswich Star: Mark Ling at Broomhill pool in 2013.Mark Ling at Broomhill pool in 2013. (Image: Lucy Taylor/Archant)

Now Mark Ling from the Broomhill Trust, which has been campaigning to reopen the pool since it closed more than 20 years ago, is launching a last-ditch appeal to find the funding in a bid to resurrect the project.

The group has written an open letter which it released on Monday.

He said: "We need another £1.5m-£2m to get the project started - we've already got the bulk of what is needed.

The letter appeals to the three partners to try to close the funding gap - but the trust accepts that may be a challenge because of the financial pressures facing both the public and private sector.

He said he had no criticism of any of the partners - the borough did not apply for funding for Broomhill in the Towns Fund process because that application was made before the pandemic - and at that time the funding was sufficient for the restoration.

Mr Ling added: "The project is a victim of circumstances surrounding the Covid lockdowns. I fear the amount needed is too much for crowdfunding in a relatively small area like Ipswich - but if we can find other sources of income it's all ready to go."

Borough leader David Ellesmere said the council was trying to pull together a meeting of the three funding partners to arrange a way forward and explore how to close the gap - the money was not currently available but there might be other ways of sourcing the funds.

Ipswich Star: The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust.The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust. (Image: Broomhill Pool Trust)

Ipswich Star: The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust.The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust. (Image: Broomhill Pool Trust)

Ipswich Star: The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust.The open letter written by the Broomhill Pool Trust. (Image: Broomhill Pool Trust)

The open letter in full:

The Levelling Up Awards, outcomes and spread are bewildering. With 75% funding already committed, an outstanding community asset with wide public and cross-party support, Broomhill’s Levelling Up Fund bid should have ticked every box.

Yet, Cambridgeshire received £50m, Norfolk £40m, North Essex £40m (the new City of Colchester gained £20m), Suffolk £0 and Ipswich £0.

We appreciate the tremendous efforts and good intentions of Ipswich Borough Council and our MPs.

So once the political storm has settled, the Broomhill Pool Trust is appealing to the three stakeholders to consider the many positives of the scheme and what will be lost if it fails.

We would remind you of what is at stake for Ipswich.

The campaign and project to save Broomhill Pool has enjoyed rare cross party-political support within the Borough. This was a celebrated and community-based campaign with wide public support. It had won backing and investment from a top not for profit operator and from the NLHF.

• Broomhill Pool was all set to be restored and works began April 2020, sadly just as Covid hit. Fusion Lifestyle (the operator & project lead) was forced to furlough 3000 staff and mothball 140 facilities for nearly 2 years. The entire leisure sector was rocked. Post-Covid and Ukraine conflict, project capital construction & utility costs spiked significantly. The goalposts had moved.

• However, the scheme has £7m pledged. It possibly only needs another £1.5-2.0m to bridge the inflationary gap to get it over the line.

• There is £3.4m National Lottery Heritage Funding hanging in the balance. This is the first major NLHF award for NW Ipswich. The £3.4m NLHF stage 2 pass represents a substantial inward investment and stimulus for all Ipswich. It would be unforgivable for the people of Ipswich to lose such a massive and hard-won inward investment.

• The £5.5m guaranteed by Fusion and the NLHF (+ £1.5m commitment from IBC) represents a SIGNIFICANT return for IBC taxpayers and in an area of town that has had very little investment.

• The 2009 “All Options Appraisal” for Broomhill confirmed that this is the best outcome for taxpayers and the people of Ipswich.

• There is a substantial cost and loss to do nothing. The pool is grade II listed and built in park land (since 1925). It will be expensive for taxpayers to convert the building for recreational use or to demolish the pool. There is still a continuous liability to secure and upkeep the building.

• It now seems unlikely that the borough will get funding/secure income in the immediate term to fund a new pool at Portman Road. The Portman Road scheme is wonderful but the 25m pool is a direct replacement for Crown Pools, it does not add any additional swimming space.

In comparison Broomhill Pool will double Ipswich’s public water swimming space for a fraction of the cost of the Portman Road scheme, and it can be completed and available in just 18 months!

• Ipswich has received around £90m in national lottery investment since the lottery began. Our similar sized neighbour, Norwich, has received £210m with all the extra match funding and benefits that it brings. Ipswich needs positive outcomes, and this is a project that is tantalisingly close to fruition. If the whole scheme fails now - at such a late stage - due to a gap in capital funding, it will represent a lost opportunity of a monumental scale.

What sort of message will it send about Ipswich as a regional centre, our ability to deliver core schemes, and the ambition that our leaders collectively have for it?

• Struggling Northwest Ipswich (in CSNI constituency) has secured barely £3m (from all lottery funds) in 20 years. NW Ipswich is an area with two major high schools, two significant pockets of deprivation, and is targeted for an expansion of housing (Northern Fringe). Broomhill Pool is one of just a few major assets in NW Ipswich. This area needs and deserves inward investment and community facilities.

• Broomhill Pool will offer year-round facilities; a fitness suite, a heritage suite, café, and restored lido, terraces, and grandstand, with heated water and a planned restoration to the Wicksteed Diving stage.

• A restored Broomhill Pool will bring additional employment opportunities. It will help promote Ipswich as a destination. It will bring in extra passing trade for local shops and services. It will bring a major construction project that will possibly benefit the local economy, local construction companies and workers.

• A restored Broomhill Pool will benefit ALL the people of Ipswich but especially the young to an enormous degree offering unparalleled water facilities for the next 50 years. Approx. 30 pools have closed in Ipswich in the last 30 years (mostly Suffolk County Council operated school pools). Broomhill Pool offers a large swimming and social space for all our youth and accessibility for school swimming lessons.

• Art Deco style Broomhill Pool is unique. It is also one of our town’s most iconic and loved buildings and it can offer a practical heritage experience.

• Broomhill Pool is member of the Historic Pools of Britain and is recognised as one of the finest lidos in the United Kingdom. A successful scheme would put Ipswich on the map for all the right reasons.

• Janet Smith wrote, in her definitive book “Liquid Assets” “Broomhill may lack the national profile accorded to Saltdean, Tinside or Penzance, but it is arguably their equal in architectural significance”.

The Broomhill Pool Trust has worked tirelessly since 2003. We have secured political support, attracted in a respected not-for-profit operator, and brought together core funders to secure £7m funding.

Ipswich Borough Council and Fusion Lifestyle have both invested considerable monies and effort to get the scheme almost there. However, this may well be the last chance to save one of Britain’s finest lidos.

PLEASE let’s find a way to bridge the gap and complete the task to restore & reopen Broomhill, and work together to make a great success of it!