Shropshire Council closes the door on Whitchurch pool petition

Nick Saxby is calling for a safe plan to reopen the swimming pool in Whitchurch

A petition for Shropshire Council to examine the possibility of opening Whitchurch Swimming Centre was discussed yesterday in a scrutiny committee. The scrutiny committee dismissed the petition but gave very few details about any positive actions being taken to get the pool reopened.

The petition, signed by 441 people, was launched by Whitchurch Liberal Democrat campaigner Nick Saxby, who was frustrated by the apparent lack of action taken by the Council to make the pool over the past several months.

“I was happy to hear the committee discuss the issue of Whitchurch Swimming Centre”, said Mr Saxby, “but it was just more of the same lines we’ve heard, and no real response to the specific things that the petition raised”.

Cllr Picton, portfolio holder for Shropshire’s leisure services, responded in writing.

“We completely understand the frustrations of the local community. We are frustrated too as we understand the importance to the users of the facility with regards to physical and mental health”.

She added that “detailed risk assessments” have been carried out and it was felt that it was not feasible to open the pool in line with social distancing measures.

One of Whitchurch’s councillors, Cllr Mullock added: “The reception area, the changing rooms, and the passage ways are just too small”. She stated: “It’s just not feasible”.

However, Mr Saxby was not satisfied: “We keep hearing about it being impossible, but no details are ever given about exactly what the obstacles are, or what actions have been explored and discounted”.

“Councillors did a bit of speculating and sharing their thoughts, but what I wanted, and what I think people deserve, is detail”.

“My frustration, is that the Council and its partners have had since last March to try and troubleshoot this issue, so using the current escalation of the covid crisis as an excuse just doesn’t wash”.

“There was a lot of exchanges of praise between councillors, for their hard work on this issue, but not a lot of detail about what that hard work consisted of”.

Cllr Roger Evans also spoke in favour of taking more proactive steps: “Surely we should be investigating methods”.

“We can do all sorts, if there is an effort to be put in. I’m asking, has it been investigated, and I’m being told, no it hasn’t really”.

“Easiest thing in the world is to say no: Let’s see how we can make it happen; that’s a lot harder”.

The chair of the committee, Cllr Wild, concluded the discussions by saying “I’m not going to do anything with this petition now”, before moving on to the next topic.

Mr Saxby shared his thoughts about the conclusion:

“It’s worth clarifying that this petition was submitted before the current lockdown measures were put in place. Since submission, circumstances have changed, and I wouldn’t expect the pool to be opening now anyway. But, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what has been happening over the past year regarding the pool”.

“Cllr Evans put forward an interesting idea, of attaching a marquee to the building to expand it; whether it was feasible or not, it was nice to hear a councillor actually attempting to try and find solutions”.

“Ultimately, the pool is going to have to stay closed for now, but I don’t think that absolves Shropshire Council of their responsibility to be engaged with the people of Whitchurch”.

If you haven’t signed the petition but still want to, you can here:
Whitchurch Swimming Pool Petition