Walsall swimmers battle to save beloved pool from permanent closure
Worried swimmers have launched a determined campaign to save their beloved Walsall pool from permanent closure.
A 14 metre crack has appeared in the facility at Sneyd Community Association in Vernon Way which Walsall Council said could be very costly to repair.
But hundreds of people use the pool every week and many of them along with staff are keen to see it fixed and back in use, with an online petition collecting more than 1,400 signatures to date.
They are also calling upon the council to share results of surveys, that have been carried out so they can see the extent of the damage, themselves and get an idea of the cost involved.
There are 560 people who use Sneyd swimming pool every week with a further 300 on the waiting list.
The pool was initially closed in the summer due to a broken boiler and was due to reopen in October. But the discovery of the crack has kept it shut ever since.
Tracey Jackson, a parent whose two children have been using the pool for more than a decade, has set up a Go Fund Me page for the cause.
She said: “It’s a proper community environment where everyone goes. My daughter did her life saving skills with the swim club and became a lifeguard and she’s now one of the teachers.
“It’s a shame it has to stop for all of the children who are using it so we thought we’ve got to do something and start a petition to get them to listen to them.
“The council has done a report which said there is structural damage. We’ve asked for a copy of that.”
Both Louise Jarvis’ children learned to swim there and her son Oliver, aged 16, is now a lifeguard there.
She said: “It’s fantastic and the kids love it. What they’ve learned to do, is not only swim and lifeguard – it’s a community, one big family.
“It’s a big part of our lives. It’s a nice atmosphere. It’s not just a swimming lesson. Every single kid means something to that school and it is a lovely atmosphere.
“So much so, I started swimming there before it closed. It was good for my health and my wellbeing. I felt safe going there on my own where I don’t with the other pools in the area.
“We are really sad about it. To Oliver, it keeps his fitness and mind active, helps with the other sports he does and he said ‘I can’t do that at any centre’. They don’t have the lessons they have at Sneyd.
“He’s lost what we class as our family. This atmosphere has gone. As time has gone by, he said he is missing being there talking to the families.”
Rebecca Richardson’s 16-year-old daughter Evie is also a lifeguard there while her youngest, 10-year-old Lyla, also has lessons there.
She said: “Two daughters have been there since they were three and have gone right through. It’s all they’ve known since they were little.
“The council said there are other places for swimming but that’s just for lessons. At Sneyd they have the rookies lifesaving club and have nothing like there anywhere else around here.
“They are gutted. They don’t want to go anywhere else. They’re upset they won’t be able to see the friends they have made over the years.
“The parents have said, put the prices up. We don’t mind if that’s going to help cover the cost of the repairs.”
And swim co-ordinator and tutor Jane Humphreys said: “We’ve got adults who swim and some of them have been going for 40 years so they’re not just going to go to a leisure centre.
“We’ve had people who’ve come from other centres telling us they don’t like it there.
“The community association have said up to a certain amount, they’ll fund repairs. If it’s mega they won’t be able to. They are certainly prepared to fund a more intrusive survey.”
A Walsall Council spokesperson said: “The council has already commissioned an independent survey report which says there is a 14m long crack in the pool which has affected both the tiles and the concrete structure.
“The cracking has caused significant damage to the tiled surround to the pool which means that it is unsafe.
“The consultant has indicated that the remedial repairs or reconstruction works would cost a significant amount to complete.
“Following the repair to the boiler, the water temperature was increased at the recommended rate, so it is not believed that this was the cause of the cracking.
“The report undertaken on the crack concluded that the crack is not typical of a thermal crack and suggests movement within the concrete structure of the pool.
“A detailed and intrusive structural investigation by specialists would be costly, but would also involve emptying the pool of water.
“This in itself carries a real risk of many tiles previously below the water level becoming dislodged because of the lack of pressure from the water.
“As a local authority, the council is obliged to optimise its property portfolio through the consideration of options for maximising the efficiency of its built estate.
“This includes considering options for either maximising occupation of under-utilised buildings or for the repurposing of those properties which cannot be effectively utilised for operational or service delivery purposes.”