Ipswich gets an early Christmas present from National Lottery – Broomhill pool

New architect's impression of the proposed Broomhill restoration (December 2017). Picture: KLH Archi

New architect's impression of the proposed Broomhill restoration (December 2017). Picture: KLH Architects - Credit: Archant

Ipswich received some fantastic news this week when the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the full amount asked – £3.4m – to restore Broomhill Pool.

Plans to restore Broomhill Lido have received a boost with a �3.4million Lottery grant.
From left:

Plans to restore Broomhill Lido have received a boost with a �3.4million Lottery grant. From left: Robyn Llewellyn,Tim Mills, Councillor Bryony Rudkin, Alan Wilkinson and Mark Ling. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

It has taken an awfully long time to reach this stage, after the borough council was forced to keep the pool’s doors shut at the start of the summer season in 2003, but it looks as if it will all be worth it in the end.

Whether I’ll ever use Broomhill myself, I don’t know. I am a regular swimmer, but I do like the comfort of a heated indoor pool (whatever the weather) for my twice-weekly workouts!

When the pool closed, I was very doubtful about the campaign to reopen it. It might have attracted a great deal of local support, but it seemed to me this was all based on emotion and a desire to see the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

It’s all very well remembering what a great place it was to visit in the long, hot summers of 1976 or 1990 – but no-one wanted to recall what the place was like during a more typical wet British summer when hardly anyone went through the turnstiles.

By the last summer season it was open, every visitor who paid £2 to go for a swim was costing council taxpayers in Ipswich about £25. I don’t mind subsidising facilities like swimming pools and sports centres – but that kind of figure was unsustainable.

The initial campaign to get the pool reopened seemed to be based on the fact that it was still there, it had been patched up for several years, and that by patching it up a bit more you could get a few more years out of it.

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That was never a realistic aim for a long-term solution – and I always felt that argument would, and should, not succeed.

However, once the borough accepted that it was not able to come up with a solution itself and Fusion Lifestyle became involved in the project, things really did start to look up.

But it has still taken far too long to reach this stage. That is partly because the necessity of making sure everyone does due diligence on a lottery bid inevitably delays the application process.

At times it has seemed that the process has ground to a halt.

At these times the Broomhill Pool Trust has played an invaluable role. Its leading members soon realised that turning the clock back to 2002 was not an option – the historic pool had to be at the centre of a new leisure centre open around the year if it was to have a realistic future.

And that’s what we’ve now got from Fusion Lifestyle and the Heritage Lottery Fund – not to mention the £1m that’s been contributed to the project by Ipswich council.

We’re going to get a real community asset with leisure facilities that people will be able to use around the year and a heated swimming pool (heated just enough to take the chill off) that can be used six months of the year. There are, of course, still some concerns. If it becomes very popular, where will all the pool users park? That’s an issue that still has to be resolved.

Bus passengers face new year shake-up

Ipswich has one of the very last council-owned bus companies in the country, but these are very tough times for public transport operators.

Outside the largest cities in the country, bus services are often dependent on subsidies. These are increasingly coming under pressure – in Suffolk we have seen service reductions, and more are expected over the next few months.

Now that pressure has come to Ipswich. The council-owned bus company is having to make changes to its services which look quite minor but are a sign of the times.

If you go out to Ipswich town centre on a Sunday evening you’ll either have to drive home, get a taxi or (if you’re feeling energetic) walk if you’re out after 8pm.

Part of Chantry will lose its bus service – forcing people to walk a few hundred metres to another bus route.

And many people will notice a small, but significant, fare increase.

People living in Ipswich are lucky. There is a good, reliable bus service during the day and into the evenings. It’s something people living outside this built-up area lost years ago.

You cannot get a bus home to Hadleigh, Stowmarket, Leiston or Framlingham if you fancy a night out in Ipswich.

But next year’s changes show you cannot take anything for granted – Ipswich Buses are not immune from the economic facts of life.