Croydon Conservatives have given a cautious welcome to the news, announced by press release, that the closure of Purley Pool is to be removed from the 2015/16 draft budget and the pool will get at least a stay of execution.
The December decision of the new Labour administration to close the Purley Pool, whilst simultaneously committing to invest over £16 million in a brand new pool for New Addington, has come in for widespread criticism from residents and residents’ associations all over the south of the borough.
Nearly 7,000 residents’ signatures have been collected for a petition opposing the closure, in a joint effort by the independent ‘Save Purley Pool’ campaign, Croydon South parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives, Chris Philp, and GLA Member, Steve O’Connell. Labour’s candidate for Croydon South, Emily Benn, has also (to her credit) come out against the decision of her own council administration and backed the retention of the pool.
The petition is to be presented at full council tonight by ‘Save Purley Pool’ campaigner Fred Wallis, and the scale of the petition has generated a debate in the chamber, requested by the Conservative Group. At the end of the debate the chamber will vote on the motion:
‘This council supports the residents of Croydon who call upon the new administration to honour the Labour Party’s pre-election promise to keep Purley Pool open. Over 5,000 residents (and rising) have signed the petition calling for the decision to recommend closure in April 2015, as included in the draft budget taken to Scrutiny in December, to be reversed.’
The press release says ‘The council is to delay the closure of Purley swimming pool and work with the community to keep it open while it can still be used’.
Slightly more worryingly the press release also says ‘The council will now work with members of the community on a joint survey of the pool. It was agreed that the decision may need to be reviewed if, in the coming months, there is any major investment or health and safety concerns.’
This does seem to give the council an easy way to close the pool later, most likely once the General Election is safely out of the way.
Welcoming the stay of execution, Leader of the Opposition Cllr Tim Pollard says “I welcome Cllr Newman’s decision to back off from the early closure and call upon him to give unequivocal commitment to investing the relatively modest sums required for ongoing maintenance so that the mooted health and safety closure never happens.
“The previous Conservative administration invested many hundreds of thousands of pounds in the routine maintenance of the pool to keep it safe until a new replacement can be provided in the area. We call on Cllr Newman to do the same and not to deliberately run it down so that he can close it later, on the quiet.
“This delay in closure is a real tribute to people power and shows what service users can achieve. Our excellent local councillors, parliamentary candidate and GLA Member have all played an important part, but the real credit has to go to the ‘Save Purley Pool’ campaigners, who are so dedicated to ‘their’ pool.”
Cllr Pollard continues “If this is to be seen a serious attempt to keep the pool open, rather than a short-term political stunt, Cllr Newman and his colleagues need to vote with the Conservative group in favour of the motion.
“It should also move quickly to set up a user steering group, which will help ensure that the ongoing maintenance is satisfactorily carried out so secure the pools future right up until the point where any replacement comes on stream.”
In his speech in support of the petitioning residents Cllr Pollard called upon the Labour administration to commit to a four point plan to secure the future of leisure in Purley and Coulsdon:
ONE – commitment – this is a stay of execution not a commitment to retain - so we call for the same commitment the Conservatives made four years ago, that Purley Pool stays until a replacement either in Purley or very near is ready
TWO – investment - there must be proper investment of the relatively modest sums needed to ensure this threatened ‘health and safety closure’ is never necessary
THREE – community involvement - we call upon Newman to set up a local steering group including the pool campaigners and local councillors, to ensure all necessary routine maintenance is carried out and to ensure that the facilities maintenance work is properly carried out
FOUR – long-term regeneration – call upon the administration to secure the long term future of leisure in Purley by offering the same level of commitment to Purley residents as they recently have in New Addington, through investment in the regen of Purley centre and commitment to some or all of the cost of a pool for Purley and Coulsdon residents in or near Purley centre.