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4 February 2014, 08:08 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
£1.7 million work has started to restore an old swimming pool in Southampton.
Work has begun to return Oaklands Pool in Lordshill to full working order. Approximately £1.7 million has been allocated by Southampton City Council for the completion of the project.
Contractors Interserve, whose Southampton base is a stones-throw from the Oaklands site, have been appointed to carry out the works which are expected to last until late 2014 to allow an early 2015 opening to the public. They are looking, where possible, to have a number of workers from the local area involved in the project.
Following mechanical issues with the pipes feeding the pool, Southampton City Council was forced to close the pool in 2012. Since then, options to repair and reopen the pool have been explored. In October 2013, the council agreed a proposal to refurbish and reopen the pool which it is hoped will be run on behalf of the community by the Oaklands Community Pool Group. The locally based group are currently forming a charitable organisation to take on this venture.
Councillor Matt Tucker, Cabinet member for Economic Development and Leisure, said:
“It’s fantastic to see that this important facility will be returned to the local community for them to enjoy again, thanks to the hard-work of Cllr Sally Spicer who has supported the new community group. At a time when councils are finding it increasingly difficult to protect existing services it is really positive that we are able to invest in bringing back this much loved leisure venue. ”
Justin Elliott, Associate Director from Interserve, said:
“With our offices less than a mile from Oaklands, our staff have previously benefitted from using the facilities. So when we were awarded the contract, the whole team were really excited, as ultimately they will be some of the end users of the new community run pool and facilities.
"With a number of our supply chain partners also coming from the local area, we will be having a lot of people working on the project that will have a personal interest in the end result, which will make it even more rewarding when the site is opened.”
Dan Lally from Oaklands Community Pool Group said:
“It has been a massive battle to save the pool from closure and demolition. I am very pleased that the pool will return to serving the community 7 days a week! Oaklands provides the most important life skill the ‘ability to swim’ through its Learn to Swim scheme and also RLSS Rookie Lifeguard, Survive & Save and Lifeguard courses. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise and I encourage everyone to swim and to test the new Oaklands in the coming months!”
Councillor Sally Spicer, Labour Ward Councillor for Coxford, said:
“It's been a long process to get to this point, but finally all our hard work is paying off. I could not have done this without the support of Oakland's Community Pool group wanting this to work as much as I or for the council's leader, Cllr Letts for believing in me that this can work. I hope we can be a roll model to other local authority's dealing with cuts to their local services especially for when it comes to council run swimming pools.
"It's so important for children to learn the life skill of swimming and that local schools can use Oakland's once again, swimming is also a great form of exercise with many health benefits. So it's pleasing to see contractors on site at last and exciting times ahead for the community's much loved swimming pool, giving the local area back a community attraction once again and to see the pool having a makeover that will last for at least 15 years. This could not have been achieved with a quick fix option for that to only give the pool an uncertain future.”
When open again the pool will offer lessons, casual use, lane swimming, fun sessions and birthday parties.
The works will predominantly focus on the mechanical and electrical systems within the building which will ensure the effective functioning of the pool again but will largely be unseen by the public – however there will also be improved changing cubicles and an enlarged car park for pool users.
The rest of the site is currently in the process of being demolished by a different contractor in preparation for the site for a housing development.