The popular Leith leisure pool is due for closure early next year, but a campaign is under way to rescue it. Here, we present both sides of the argument
By Johnny Gailey
Splashback! is concerned about the impact the closure of Leith Waterworld would have, not just on the people of Leith but for children, families and disabled pool users from across Edinburgh and further afield.
Waterworld is a unique facility used by more than 120,000 per year, contributing to the health of the city. We believe its closure would be a hammer blow to Leith and a major loss to the Edinburgh public.
Public support has been overwhelming, with more than 3000 signatures on our petition both outside Leith Waterworld and online. We met a father from Peebles who has been bringing his family every week since 1999. He then goes out in Edinburgh to shop, eat and spend money in local businesses. We met a woman who told us she learn to swim in Waterworld 20 years ago – when she was 60! Waterworld has a special place in people’s hearts.
Yes Waterworld costs money to run, but we believe the £300,000 cost (1 per cent of Edinburgh Leisure’s budget) is an investment in our community, our children and our future. In fact since the decision was first made in 2005, income has gone up by £100,000. Operating costs have also gone up by £100,000, which suggests growing demand within an ageing facility.
The original plan to sell Waterworld was part of a broader upgrade of Edinburgh’s sporting infrastrucure – refurbishing the Commonwealth Pool (£7m over budget) and selling Meadowbank (stalled) to build a community stadium at Sighthill (mothballed) and subsidising EICA in Ratho.
All elite venues at the expense of local community based leisure amenities.
Splashback believes the original decision is now redundant due to significant changes in the business case, political context and economic climate, and needs to be revisited.
We are asking councillors to halt the closure on January 8 and re-examine the future of the pool. You can sign our online petition at the campaign website – www.splashbackedinburgh.blogspot.com
* Johnny Gailey is spokesman for the Splashback campaign group
By DEIDRE BROCK
The decision to close and sell Leith Waterworld, taken in 2005 under the previous council administration, was agreed in order to realise the capital receipt and use operational savings as part of the funding package for the major refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool.
The Commonwealth Pool is being transformed into a world-class aquatics facility for Edinburgh, with a key role in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Waterworld was originally earmarked for closure before work even began on the Commonwealth – this proposal was overturned after an amendment by Councillor Steve Cardownie was agreed at a 2007 council meeting, allowing it to remain open until the Commonwealth Pool project was completed.
Staff from Waterworld will move to work at the Commonwealth Pool and other Edinburgh Leisure facilities in January, ensuring no redundancies. We recognise that many people are surprised and saddened by the prospect of Waterworld closing.
Unfortunately, even if it weren’t necessary to close Waterworld for the reasons outlined above, facilities like this are extremely costly to run. Waterworld has the highest net deficit of all Edinburgh Leisure-run swim centres, partly because it requires more lifeguards on duty than a standard 25-metre pool.
Due to poor attendance rates outwith school holidays and weekends, its opening hours were cut when it reopened in 2002 after a major overhaul.
I acknowledge that the fun aqua sessions and children’s pool activities at the Commonwealth Pool will not replicate precisely what Waterworld provided. However, along with new family changing facilities and an enhanced soft play area, they will be very attractive to children and families.
The excellent Leith Victoria Swim Centre is a short walk from Waterworld, and Leith Academy’s pool will continue to provide facilities to local groups and swimming clubs too.
* Deidre Brock is the city council’s culture and leisure convener
MAKING A SPLASH
LEITH Waterworld opened in May 1992, with 10,000 people a week were pouring through its doors.
The centre, one of the biggest in Scotland at the time, was being built by the Walker Group for Edinburgh District Council as part of a £14m redevelopment of Leith Central Station.
In 1993 it emerged the complex was earning £100,000 a year less than expected because most users were children or adults who received discounts. The complex was plagued by a string of problems and in 1995 the News reported it had accrued a £1m deficit before it even opened.