29 May 2013

The sad lessons of Waterworld

Fyrishof in Uppsala - now that's a swimming pool!
When the council closed Leith Waterworld, we were devastated.  My daughter, who had done baby swimming lessons there as well as regular family outings,  cried and cried.  We tried taking her to the Dalry Swim Centre for lessons but she hated it. When the Commonwealth Pool re-opened, we tried it with no more success It just wasn't 'fun'.  Her little brother has only once been to Waterworld, when he was a few months old just before they closed it.  But we do know how much fun a family can have at a waterpark. Pictures of our trip to Sweden - I was at a conference, it was the only self-catering accommodation we could find - hang on our kitchen walls. There are huge smiles on our faces.  Waterworld ought to draw people into Leith, and boost local businesses, as well as providing much needed family recreation for the local neighbourhood.

So when we heard in January that the Council would consider - support even - a community bid to reopen Waterworld, we were delighted.  It seemed like finally, things were being done differently. Which is why we all feel like we've been kicked in the guts today.  The council is going to vote tomorrow, but both parties in the ruling coalition support selling Waterworld for a derisory £1million so that a profitmaking firm can turn it into softplay.  There are already several softplays in Leith, and certainly no one is going to travel down Leith walk just to go to another one.  So this one will just take business away from the existing operations. I can't see any long-term financial logic, nor benefit to the council accepting the commercial offer.  The only justification seems to be that 'council officials recommended it'.

The council is trying to sell it as 'better than just another supermarket' and by assuring campaigners that the £125 000 which was to support their bid will still go towards 'free swimming' for primary kids.  But they don't understand that a play pool is different from lessons in cold pools with instructors yelling instructions from the side.

The comments on Andrew Burns blog are a must read. Passionate pleading for a pool that is warm, and shallow enough for toddlers.  The sloping 'beach' like entrance.  The waves and slide.  The Commonwealth pool does have a small pool for kids, but it's regularly too full and people are turned away. A pool where they can play with their kids, not watch them from the side. They put it so much better than I can.  Do read them.  

It's ridiculous that people are driving their kids to Dunbar and Perth so that they can play in fun pools, but it's even more devastating to have the council pull the rug out from under the feet of people who have been working hard to set up the bid.  

This decision has absolutely shattered the trust and faith of community activists, many of them just local families trying to work with the council to improve their local area.  For many this will have been their first taste of activism and engagement. What message have they been sent?  That the council doesn't care about them. That their elected representatives can't be trusted. That's going to be the long term legacy of this decision. And that's even sadder than all the kids who will not know the fun of playing in warm water with their parents and learn to love water and sport.


Arthur Duncan said...

Very well said indeed. I know that it is expensive both in terms of capital and revenue but I really don't see how the logic that saved Ratho doesn't apply here. This is not a Leith facility but a city facility with a unique offer to families (warm and fun). The Commie does not provide an alternative.

nick gibbon said...

Good post. I've only just found pout about this issue, but it's a sad indictment of money over community.

Daughter of the Rock said...

Don't know if Phil said to you but I am a director of Ochil Leisure Centre, we fought and won for the pool and hall in Alva. It was a long hard fight and the council actually changed their mind mid meeting as we thought we had gone to hear the bad news. Happy to share experiences. Or you could come over and support us and dive in.....or go on a family cycle :)

Anonymous said...

I agree full heartedly with all these comments and the lack of consultation of the change of decision is another point I thought the Councillors had remembered that they are there to support people of Edinburgh not only with a money driven focus but on what is best for the lives of people who live here and pay their taxes to do so. Waterworld is needed not just another softplay service. I really feel betrayed and disgusted with the running of this City.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the council have a last minute 'change of heart'. Very sad news yesteday.

Unknown said...

Good blog, sad business, really makes me think about our plans with Edin Council. Thomas, co-founder of Dads Rock.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Council Provosts's new car will help offset all those runs to Dunbar and Perth. As would selling off the Provost's Council "S0" numberplate - estimated value £500,000.

"The Lord Provost is set to swap the BMW 7-series for a new eco-friendly civic car in a move which council officials claim could reduce emissions on official trips by 40 per cent. Councillor Wilson was test driving several models earlier this year, including a £98,000 Lexus LS600h luxury hybrid which has a five-litre V8 engine and two electric motors. He said at the time: “There’s no higher profile than that of being Lord Provost, the First Citizen, of Scotland’s capital city and choosing a hybrid car will encourage this technology across Edinburgh.” http://www.scotsman.com/news/edinburgh-lord-provost-s-car-parked-illegally-1-2959022