At last, a Broomhill pool bid that will benefit whole town!

Broomhill Swimming Pool in Ipswich has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Broomhill Swimming Pool in Ipswich has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. - Credit: Archant

When I went along to hear officially that Broomhill Pool’s lottery bid was on course to win £3.3m, I was reminded by one campaigner of my negative comments in earlier years.

Back in 2003, after the borough announced that the pool could not re-open for the season, and during the next few years, I was critical of the attempts to get the pool reopened.

I said they were unrealistic and would cost far too much to implement – and that it might be better to look at other uses for the site.

As I was reminded last week, we even carried the headline “Doomhill” at one stage as the bids to save the pool were clearly not going to succeed at any level.

I don’t take back any of those comments. But I am absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has now adopted the Fusion Lifestyle proposal to bring it back into use.

In the years immediately after the closure we seemed only to hear calls for the pool to be repaired and reopened.

That might have sounded nice but it was always going to be a non-starter.

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The pool was always going to need millions spent on it to bring it up to date, and there was no way those costs could ever be justified as an open-air, unheated facility only open four months a year.

When we had a long, hot summer, like in 1976 or 1990, it was glorious – but it still made a thumping loss for the council.

During an “average” British summer, the costs per visitor were running somewhere between £20-£25 each. It was charging between £1.50 and £2. That was the economics of the madhouse!

I’m glad those early attempts failed because it gave Mark Ling the chance to come in, set up the Broomhill Trust and take a really strong business-based look at the project.

Mr Ling and the trust realised that a stand-alone swimming pool project was a non-starter. They talked to the pool owners, Ipswich Council, and persuaded it to go out and bring in a business partner – Fusion Lifestyle.

What we now have is a proposal for a great community leisure facility including a gym, exercise studios, and a café that will be open 12 months a year.

The pool will also be open for some of those months – but on what basis has still to be decided. It largely depends on whether heating is installed – which could mean it could be open from March to October rather than from May to September.

Despite the growing popularity of open water swimming, I’m very doubtful about the demand in Ipswich – or in Suffolk generally – for round-the-calendar outdoor swimming.

How many people are there who want to “break the ice” on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day when they can join one of the charity swims at Felixstowe or Aldeburgh?