It’s now a few days since I spoke at Mayor and Cabinet meeting and I’m still processing what’s happened.
I spoke for only about two minutes as I shared my allocated 5 minutes slot with fellow campaigner Mary. I spoke on the assessment of needs. Mary tackled the appalling consultation issue.
I was slightly nervous about the risk of forgetting important parts but I think that I managed to touch on the all of the main arguments keeping it dry and factual. Only that when closing my presentation one comment that was not about background documents or numerical considerations slipped out of my mouth. I called the planned centre “unambitious”. Of course the Cabinet Member in charge of Sport skipped on everything factual that I had said and decided to pick on my comment on their ambition and spoke at length about their great ambitions. I might have believed her if I hadn’t had detailed knowledge of what she was speaking about.
“You know that I don’t have a right to give you a reply in here” I thought throughout as the she freely told me that “the new centre will have 250 spectator seats” (the old one has 514 seats), it will have a cafe (like the old one), a creche (like the old one), a …” ah well you got the picture, she kept on reading the list of the features of this new sport centre and didn’t manage to mention one thing that there isn’t already at Ladywell and that’s because there isn’t one, unlike the opposite.
What she decided to leave unchallenged is for example that the new centre will not have windows on the swimming pool room, that it will have only 1.9 m at the deep end instead of 3.8 m of the old one (so no diving boards ever again), that it will effectively be 25% smaller than the current one (since Archimedes’ times pools are measured by the volume of water they contain) and that this pool will be squeezed into a shady courtyard surrounded by 4 housing blocks with a total of 410 flats. She also forgot to say that next door, part of the same complex there’s another block with 344 flats, the other side of the road there’s another with 600 and the industrial area in front has been declared residential so that there will be a gigantic housing development there too and that 2 minutes away from there another developer is about to build 500 more flats. All this will bring many thousands of new residents to live at such close distance from this centre that their usage will mean extreme overcrowding and probably a denial of access to many of the current users that just won’t find space there.
I had suggested that all these developments should have been factored into the assessment of the need of the area and that it is astonishing that they have been overlooked but she decided not to pick on that.
Never mind, although she skipped on it I managed to say it, it’s now in the minute of the meeting, I’m now writing it here and I will of course bring the matter forward in any way possible.
But I have a feel that what she would have really liked to tell me was something else altogether and it was about their financial acumen. In fact, from a financial point of view this plan is cunning. They sell a plot of land for residential development and they force a swimming pool in the courtyard where nothing would have been built anyway. Because there’s a swimming pool the price of flats on that and surrounding developments increase and they can sell the land for more. Then when that is built they can close the old pool and they sell that land too. Now, that’s clever.
Can it be that blinded by this very clever financial plan they can’t see that the plan for the sport centre is ugly and insufficient and altogether a damage to the community? And that it is so easily demonstrable that a case for a legal challenge on their decision is a piece of cake?
I had a swim at Ladywell pool at lunchtime yesterday and the sunlight was making the pool glorious. There were lots of noisy kids that I managed to avoid even swimming underneath them at times thanks to the generous deep end . The light, the water, the space, I loved it. I thought about how would it be if it didn’t have windows and the pool was as shallow as the bog-standard British pool where everytime you dive you risk to scratch your nose on the bottom.
But of course I am unaffected by their ambition.
I haven’t mentioned the Mayor. Well, he was there and Mary even managed to get a reaction from him. I heard him saying “I’m not interested in what you say”. I hope that he later reconsidered as what she was saying was that there is very solid ground to say that the consultation they run on this scheme could be considered unlawful and that this could put all this development scheme at risk of substantial delay at the very least.
P.S.: I should bite my tongue and not comment on the Mayor’s insistence on calling Ladywell Pool decrepit or other comments alike. I thought that on this matter pictures speak louder than words. Judge for yourself.