Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Sedgemoor District Labour Group today attempted to save Town Centre swimming in the face of Tory plans to build a new pool out of town at a packed meeting which was dominated by supporters of the pressure group Bridgwater Forward who spoke passionately against the Tory plans to squander this opportunity to regenerate the town centre in favour of what would essentially just be a school pool.

Day 1The Ammendment, proposed by Cllr Brian Smedley (shadow Health & Well Being) & seconded by Cllr Kathy Pearce (shadow Regeneration) -both Hamp Labour councillors, read as follows;-
"The Council give notice to withdraw from the Chilton Trinty BSF scheme and seek instead to procure a new public swimming pool and fitness centre as part of a flagship redevelopment of the Northgate site in the interests of regeneration and sustainability, such to be financed through disposal of the remainder of the Northgate site including potential planning gain and/or other capital assets as well as potential capital and revenue contributions from EDF should planning consent be granted for Hinkley C, and with full community engagement throughout the process."
Cllr Brian Smedley said “We're putting this motion today in support of the long and proud tradition in our town of public swimming. Which has existed in one form or another from the corporation baths of the 1890s to the borough councils flagship Lido project -still very popular in folk memory here – to the Splash - which the Tories were so proud of they got princess diana to open it- yet when demolished they seem to be surprised at the massive public outcry and the strength of this is that the campaigners still here today 6 months later”
He added “we believe the case for the chilton pool site doesnt stack up as theres very little provision for community use and almost no sedgemoor influence on it apart from an annual bill to the taxpayers for what is clearly just a school pool. This is a major policy mistake while theres still a chance to keep public swimming and keep it in the town centre -which is where the people want it”

Cllr Kathy Pearce seconding the ammendment said “ In July they told us that we could not afford to borrow enough to fund the £4 million that they told us it would cost to refurbish the Splash. They demolished the Splash with such haste so that councillors were denied the opportunity to explore whether

funding to refurbish it was possible through Tesco or EDF as part of the Northgate regeneration. Here we are 7 months later with a proposal to fund a pool for £6.3 million and we are now told that we are in fact able to borrow in total £5.3 million.“

She went on to say “Just 40 hours are being committed to community use, out of a total of 105 hours and that includes the primary school learn to swim times. This means that community use falls way below 50% of the available time, and yet the community, through Sedgemoor are bearing all the revenue costs. From the outset of this scheme we have been dancing to the County’s tune in terms of timescales which do not suit us, committing us to funding much sooner than we can be assured of capital receipts and therefore which we cannot with confidence afford. It is madness.I fully support swimming in the town and will support whatever it costs to provide it – but only for the right scheme – and this is NOT the right scheme. It is a costly school pool on the edge of town, which will do nothing to regenerate the town and will cost us dear in the process.“

Splash campaigner Angela Tarr told the meeting “Whilst I fully support rebuilding Chilton Trinity School and it's sports centre I cannot in all conscience support building Bridgwater's replacement public swimming pool at Chilton street. Everyone knows there are severe highway congestion problems and child pedestrian safety concerns already. This will just be a school pool as only 40 hours community use is being guaranteed compared to 70 to 80 hours at Splash “

Bridgwater Forward member Bob Cudlipp said “Is this Council running on thin air? Reserves are being depleted and services are being cut.”

Linda Brigg, a disabled swimmer, presented members with a list of 16 disabled swimming groups affected by the Splash closure and said “Please have a rethink, there is a site within costs and in the centre of town”

Chair of Bridgwater Forward Sally Jones spoke up for the traders in the town and said “You can;t blame the recession alone for the state of Bridgwater .It's also all the bad decisions made in the past that are effecting the economy and the destroying of the Splash being the worse..Traders have noticed a serious drop in footfall since closure, people are leaving town to shop elsewhere and we don't have tourists bringing their money into the town!”

Pete Smith summing up for Bridgwater Forward said “it is hardly surprising Somerset CC is granting a loan on such apparently favourable terms when they are getting Sedgemoor to pay the full cost of the school pool of £6.3m and fund its revenue deficit of up to £400,000pa for the next 25 years! “

The ammendment was lost with all Conservatives voting it down and all Labour members (and the 1 Libdem) voting ito save town centre swimming. The Tories then used their overwhelming majority to push through the plans for the Chilton site.

Tory Councillor Neville Jones (Burnham) accused the protestors of “Biting the hand that feeds you” and of showing “a lack of gratitude”

On a lighter note , Cllr Smedley asked if claims on Tory MP Ian Liddle-Graingers website that he had personally got together a petition of 2000 signatures to save the Splash were true . Tory leader Cllr Duncan McGinty said he “was not aware of it”.

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