An Olympic legacy?

20 Sep

At the bottom of Leith Walk on the right hand side is Waterworld. It’s closed. It was one of those leisure pools that became popular of few years ago, you know the sort of place? They had flumes, various different sizes and depths of small pools, chutes and other sorts of things you might have expected to see on a beach holiday.

It’s closed because it was costing the Council £400K in subsidies each and every year due in no small part to the lack of paying customers who wanted to partake of it’s facilities such as they were. Councils never, ever seem to make money out of pools and sports facilities and to a degree that’s expected and understood.

However, when the venue isn’t sporting and can’t be put under the Olympic legacy banner, is hidden away and has never been much of a success it becomes harder to justify. Waterworld only opened two of three days a week apart from school holidays when it opened pretty much everyday.

Anyway, Edinburgh Council decided that it was time to close it. Their strategy was that the money saved and the money they might receive from any potential purchaser of the site which they estimated in total at some £1.5 Million would go towards the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The budget for the refurbishment reflected this.

Waterworld was to be closed at an agreed date and people using it were aware of this. A few weeks before the closing date a group suddenly came forward to try to stop the closure. The group is made up of people who live locally and are involved in the arts and various community projects.

They petitioned the Council to delay the closure and the sale of the site. The Greens supported them, which I find to be rather odd. A swimming pool requires significant heating, as does the building in general, which means it will emit a lot of CO2. But still the Greens support it being kept open?

The new coalition of Labour and the SNP on the Council agreed to put back the sale date to allow the group, calling themselves Splashback, time to produce a bid to take the site over.

Today, the 20th Sept 2012 the council are meeting to make a decision on a further extension to the sale date. The bid from Splashback does not provide a bid of at least £1 million for the site. It does contain an offer of £1 for the site, which would be rented from the council and then a plan to extend the opening hours, develop more activities and to refurbish and reopen Waterworld. They would aim to reduce the deficit to around £240K per year by year three. They would also try to obtain grants from various public charities, the Lottery etc. etc. They would not be putting their own money in and would really only be managing the site.

The Council meantime have had GVA the property specialists assess the site and they have stated that it is not viable, additional costs of some £155K will be required to reopen it and most damaging of all the potential purchasers have withdrawn their bids because of the delays and alterations made to the bidding process.

In other words Splashback has stopped the site being sold. Splashback has been costing the Council a minimum of £2000 per week for the continuing security and minimum maintenance of Waterworld. If the Councillors agree to give Splashback another three months or so to find the money needed the cost to the Council taxpayers of Edinburgh will be over £100,000.

Tom Farmer has, at the last minute, jumped on the bandwagon and given his support to Splashback. But has he got his chequebook out? Will he finance it? Of course not. Why? Because it is not financially viable! He knows this.

I’ll report tomorrow in a brief post on the outcome.

The bid makes no sense. It will never work. The Council will need to find at least £1 Million plus £155,000 plus at least another £1 Million over the next three years to keep Waterworld open. That would be less any grants Splashback might be awarded although they will probably never manage to get enough people through the doors to meet their own figures.

This is democracy apparently but not as we know it Jim.


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