Making waves for future of pool

SWIMMING: Broomhill's official 2002 opening will take place this weekend – and residents fear it may well be the last full season for the popular Ipswich pool.For more than 60 years now, the 50 metre open air pool has been considered a valuable leisure asset to the town, but in recent times its long-term future has seemingly grown increasingly less secure.

BROOMHILL'S official 2002 opening will take place this weekend – and residents fear it may well be the last full season for the popular Ipswich pool.

For more than 60 years now, the 50 metre open air pool has been considered a valuable leisure asset to the town, but in recent times its long-term future has seemingly grown increasingly less secure.

Now, with the pool set to begin entertaining families for the summer period, it is looking more likely than ever that the facility may well be nearing the end of its guaranteed life.

By September it will have reached the close of a five-year assured period of opening – meaning that councillors will have to heavily debate the potential prospects for this aged pool.

It is feared that the consultation may rule that the facility is simply no longer financially viable.

"We're in the last year of the five-year 'guaranteed opening' for the pool," said councillor and leisure spokesman, John Mowles.

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"It means that we will now have to look at the purpose and requirements for prolonging the life of Broomhill, and judge what should happen after this season's September close."

He said: "As with many facilities in the borough, we've been carrying out an asset management exercise to find out exactly what investment would be required here.

"We're expecting a report back any day now, and then hopefully we'll be in a clearer position to see what should happen."

Mowles admits that, in the worst case scenario, the amount of required investment may be vast. In that situation, councillors will have to evaluate if indeed it is viable to plough such a substantial amount into one single summer time facility.

"It's hard to judge the outcome in advance, but, for example, we could be looking at needing to spend as much as £1 million," he commented.

"Whatever the finding, we have already decided that we will embark on an extensive process of consulting residents and pool-users so that we have a clear idea of exactly how they want us to spend the money."

Broomhill Pool has long been viewed, not only as a great swimming asset to the borough – in addition to Crown Pools and Fore Street – but as a significant social resource.

Every year, it is used by thousands of leisure swimmers, sunbathers and Suffolk parents with their youngsters.

Those campaigning for the secured future of the pool claim it simply must not be taken from the Ipswich community. Instead, they believe we should be insisting on its importance in keeping children happy, safe – and, more importantly, water-aware.

Mike Read, of Sproughton, is one of Broomhill's greatest fans.

A renowned cross-channel swimmer who has gained 18 World Records and was a member of Great Britain's 1960 Olympic Swimming Team, the 60-year-old is adamant that Ipswich's open air pool must remain.

"We've genuinely got a unique facility here in this town, and for a long time we've been guilty of letting it go to rack and ruin," he said. "It's virtually a 50 metre Olympic pool, but rather than look after it, we've not put any money in to it in 25 years.

"Now it's time we did something to save it. We need to make that investment, and we need to secure it for the longer term."

Formerly Ipswich's 'amateur sports personality of the year', and well known in the borough for his many remarkable swimming achievements, Mike is desperate to stress the great role which Broomhill plays in childhood water-awareness.

Some 700 children can be using the pool at any given day during its ten-week opening period, and he believes these youngsters are offered a very valuable experience in recognising the perils and the pleasures of water.

"If there is one thing I really believe in, it's that young children all need some form of swimming ability," he said.

"They should feel safe around waterways, and in somewhere like Suffolk that's just such a crucial priority."

He added: "We're already very well aware that each year a handful of children will die in Britain's waters, and I believe that a pool like this can make a significant difference in driving down those statistics.

"If Broomhill's existence helps us to save just one life during the summer months, then any amount of investment will surely have been worthwhile."

Mike's points are valid indeed, given that the county is full of open waterways, with a great many potentials for danger if – and when – Suffolk's youngsters find themselves becoming bored during the summer holidays.

"Broomhill serves a critical role at a critical time in the warm summer days when the children are on their holidays and the alternatives are already fully stretched, not available – or worse, far too

dangerous," he stressed.

"To decide that investment cannot be put in to Broomhill in the long term could potentially have some very serious consequences – and our emergency services would be left to pick up the pieces."

He added: "I'm concerned that invest has already been earmarked for other Borough facilities – like the Regent – and that this valuable asset could be completely ignored. It's unique, and it needs saving."

Councillors will have to evaluate any financial implications of maintaining the pool's life, and perhaps contemplate alternative uses for the pool at other times.

"Other options have been queried as potential use for the pool in the past, but in truth, there just doesn't seem to be a physical demand for it," said Mr Mowles.

Over time, campaigners like Mike have often raised the issue that Broomhill would be ideal for other uses, but these have never come to fruition.

Suggestions have included: a model-boat facility, sub aqua training, swimming clubs, and water fitness classes.

Mr Mowles added: "As far as I am aware, there has never been any interest from clubs for anything of this nature.

"Our main focus is on the summertime swimming, and first and foremost, we will need to talk to residents and users to help us draw our conclusions on the future of that service."

IF you have views on the future of Broomhill, email:

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