Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 31)



Rosemary McKenna

  20. It may surprise Mr D'Souza to learn that I actually swam competitively in Govanhill Pool as a teenager. I took two buses or walked six miles to swim there, so I do know the area and I do know the history of the area. I also know that the new pool is less than a mile from Govanhill Pool and the provision of smaller leisure facilities is the policy of the council. They will not agree with your submission today. A couple of points in your submission are worth exploring. You talk about a healthy living centre, what would your role be in a healthy living centre?
  (Mr D'Souza) In the context of swimming part of the problem has been that it has been viewed in isolation. I have just come back from Australia where there is a more holistic approach to swimming pools and the facilities of swimming pools and with healthy living centres it has been shown, certainly in Australia where it has worked, that there is a variety of different uses, whether it be Internet cafes —

  21. No, I asked what your role would be.
  (Mr D'Souza) I am an osteopath and in the healthy living centre you could have complementary medicine facilities to enhance people's health. That is an important context; in swimming health is an important aspect.[6]

  22. It appears from what you are saying that you moved to Glasgow just in the summer of this year, is that correct?
  (Mr D'Souza) Since November, but I have been travelling extensively in Australia and New Zealand. I have resided permanently in Glasgow since April.

  23. Is this your report or is it the report of the group or the campaigners? Is it your report or is it the campaign's report?
  (Mr D'Souza) It is both.[7] There is a website, which has more details should the Committee require further information.

  24. You say that ethnic females for religious reasons are not able to be in open public areas; that is well known. Is there nowhere else in the vicinity where members of the ethnic community can swim?
  (Mr D'Souza) This has been the problem with new pools. They are glass-fronted buildings, they do cost more to heat, there are no other facilities for ethnic minorities. I understand ethnic women cannot swim in public areas, like the new pools which are in open view, for religious reasons.

  25. Are there no other facilities within this area?
  (Mr D'Souza) This is why we are surprised they closed the pool without creating any such provision for such ethnic minorities as Govanhill Pool was very popular for use by ethnic minorities. The new pools are not suitable

  26. I know that the City Council did say in their response during the campaign that a lot of consultation had taken place. Obviously they are not here to answer the charges you make in your submission. Is that not the case that consultation took place?
  (Mr D'Souza) The public rhetoric from the Council has been that there has been public consultation. However, there has been no effective public consultation. They have appointed a contractor to carry out a feasibility study and to undertake public consultation. Frankly anything which involves our using the three pools is not in their remit for consideration therefore they have not been willing to consider any submissions that include such proposals. That has been part of the problem. There has not been proper discussion with the local community or in general about the swimming provision and the actual usage of these pools. That is an important part of the problem and across the board there should have been proper consultation with the community before closure so that the options could have been properly considered.

  27. Are you saying Glasgow City did not?
  (Mr D'Souza) It has not consulted at all with the local community about closure.

Alan Keen

  28. Everyone is giving their qualifications for asking questions. I learned to swim when I was ten, swam one length and never attained that feat ever again. I find water still gets up my nose. Is it possible to generalise? How do the costs compare between using the beautiful old buildings for other leisure purposes and building a new pool on another site? We do not want to lose the buildings, but it is usually very expensive to keep the water from draining away.
  (Mr Velluet) I do not want to seem evasive, but it is very difficult making generalised comments about comparability between repairing an old building, which has been kept in very good condition by its owner over the years and in use, and an historic building lacking in maintenance investment and which is in disrepair or disused, and comparing that in turn with the cost of a new build on a new site, site acquisition and all the rest of it. It is very difficult to make comparisons other than looking case by case and doing it very, very carefully. I would accept that in many cases, to repair a one-hundred-year-old building could cost more per square metre than the repair of a more modern building or the maintenance cost may be higher, but one cannot set that down as an absolute. The listed building issue is one which in terms of the agenda for grant assistance and in terms of what can change, how it can be adapted, that agenda is set by government in a document called PPG15. It is about retaining and preserving listed buildings; a basic presumption to preserve them, but also to invest in them and adapt them. Just looking at the flexibility on adaptation for example, in the London context 95 per cent of all listed building consent applications made to London boroughs are approved and about 2.5 to 5 per cent are refused; others disappear off the edge. The vast bulk of proposals for changes to listed buildings nationally are approved by local authorities generally with our support. It depends on who advises, what the resource is from the partners, the owner, and it may well be that the way forward on a 100-year-old listed swimming pool building may be a partnership arrangement between the local authority and a private concern. We have seen that in the case of the Richmond Pools in Richmond-upon-Thames in London, which were under threat and where there was a very, very positive coming together of private sector and the local authority to sort that one out. That was a 1960s building interestingly. Quite often 1960s buildings can have a far greater maintenance and repair burden than Victorian buildings. Every case must be looked at separately. The grants regime we operate outside London, regrettably, is targeted primarily at Grade Is and Grade II*s which are the fewer. That is intended channelling of government money towards the extra burden element which may run with the repair of a listed building. One cannot make the simple equation that an old building or a listed building is necessarily more expensive at all times to keep in good condition than a modern building. Much depends on the level of investment which has been made over the years in that building.

  29. Have any of you thought or is it possible that the building could be converted to an alternative use more cheaply than a pool being built somewhere else with financial help from elsewhere?
  (Ms Corr) In the case of Marshall Street, swimming is the most popular use for that building. It was immensely popular. It was immensely popular because it is in the centre of dense population where loads of people live and work. It could not be replaced by a pool somewhere else, because it is where the people are and that is probably true of quite a lot of these inner city pools. Also the money needed after the contribution of the private sector was £2 million. I do not know what sort of new pool you could build for £2 million. It has two pools, one of which has been out of use for a long time. We looked with a group of students at how it could be made to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. It was quite easy to convert the second pool into a warmer accessible pool with a ramp so that it could be used for children and for disabled people. Marshall Street actually only has one shallow step at the entrance, otherwise it is all on one level and a changing room which would be very easy to convert for disabled users.
  (Ms Clark) May I refer you to the handouts you have all received which show the Shoreditch Our Way which used to be Shoreditch New Deal Trust proposal which is to use the site very flexibly including housing development, GP development and a healthy living centre to provide a £2 million cross-subsidy to re-open the baths and a central source of revenue to subsidise it. Those proposals have been worked up and are going to be put to Hackney, but that is a way of getting the pool back into use, retaining the heritage features of it and retaining a lot of the community aspects of it while bringing it into the modern era.

  30. I used to visit a mill regularly in Hollingsworth in Oldham and we used to go to Chadderton Swimming Baths at lunch times. Do they still exist or not?
  (Ms Wright) You have me there. I am afraid I do not know. We have looked at various options for Victoria Baths too and our intention is to use some of the space for other developments. There is a golden opportunity in bringing the pools back into use. Three out of four of us come from very, very deprived wards, Ardwick where Manchester Victoria Baths are situated is the 29th most deprived ward in the country, very high levels of deprivation. You have evidence before you of how the achievement of the target for swimming in Key Stage 2 is much lower when you have a high rate of free school meals. Poorer children do not learn to swim and richer children do. It is obvious why: their parents can take them to swimming lessons. If you are relying on the provision within schools, within Manchester you have one year provision in schools and our children are taught in a class of 30. One swimming teacher for 30 children is about one minute of time for the teacher each lesson for one year. It is not surprising that a lot of them do not learn to swim when that is the level of provision they are relying on in schools. If the local facilities are not there, that could be all they get. Coming back to the issue of transport, if you want to keep swimming where it is now or continue to go backwards, which we are, and restrict swimming to richer families, to able bodied people, to people who can travel, then fine. Go for big fancy new centralised facilities, but you are restricting it, there is no doubt about that. You are depriving poorer families, you are depriving disabled people and older people of access to an activity which could have massive benefits for their health. I want to say in terms of neighbourhood regeneration that many of us here are from very deprived wards. I would argue that in terms of neighbourhood regeneration one of the biggest resources is the people who live there. We are all here because we believe passionately that there is an opportunity to lead regeneration through our swimming pools. We are not being allowed to do that at the moment. If we do not do that a golden opportunity has been lost.
  (Ms Clark) May I quote one of our local schools, when we closed the head teacher said they used to go swimming once a week as part of the national curriculum and asked where they were supposed to go now. They used to take children swimming, they would walk to the pool. Britannia is 25 minutes walk away which is too far. They also used to hold galas and lifesaving classes at Haggerston. That is repeated in school after school and I cannot stress the impact of taking it off the curriculum. They cannot afford the coaches to go to the pools, albeit two miles away. It has a devastating effect on our children.

Mr Doran

  31. I want to ask a more general question, partly because there is no-one here from Victoria Baths in Leith where I live which we have just been trying to save. We are hearing a community response and the importance of local swimming pools to the community, we are hearing about the importance to the heritage of the country and local history aspects. Later on we shall hear from the swimming establishment about the difficulties which are faced by children and aspiring swimmers who want to learn at the higher level. It seems to me from what I have heard and what I have read in the evidence, that there is no co-ordination anywhere in the whole of this process. I should be interested to hear generally what people feel about that. Mr Velluet, what particularly can English Heritage bring to it, given the brief you have submitted does suggest that the swimming pools are a much lower priority than all the other areas? That is not a criticism because I understand the pressures which are on you, but how could you up your game to contribute to that national strategy if one could be developed?
  (Mr Velluet) We are undertaking a pilot study in the North West Region about a whole range of sporting facilities and the heritage and the interconnection between the two and a great deal might be learned from that which has application across all the nine regions. The challenge is linking recognition of individual buildings, not necessarily listed buildings because there are only 79 which are listed in England, but all those municipal buildings which have a continuing community need and function and how they are to be effectively conserved and invested in by their local communities and local authorities and grants and other sources of funding tapped most effectively. For instance, on heritage type buildings, including listed buildings, one would need to look at the extent and scope of our grants regime, look at the extent to which the Heritage Lottery Fund may take a leading role and see how that partnering could be best effected, together with SRB money, central government funding and other funding available to local authorities plus the private sector. Within each local authority area there needs to be some kind of bringing together first of all, of recognition that that community facility matters, not simply as a listed building for which government urges us to have regard to and preserve, but as a community facility and to keep it in use. The chances are, in terms of real money, it is far better using an existing building and repairing that than trying to find a new site and building a new building, probably on a smaller scale than that which presently exists and looking at ways of tapping each of those other sources of funding in a way which levers maximum benefit, in a way which gets the greatest benefit from each of the authorities. HLF and Sport Council need to be talking to each other. In the arts field we still have very few projects which are a fusion of Arts Council funding and Heritage Lottery Funding. Similarly in the sports field there is scope to look at the joint funding of those two bodies together where appropriate, where they are able under legislation, to contribute to funding. It is about co-ordination on a regional basis and a local basis and I hope our study in the North West on this whole connection between sport and heritage can contribute to that. Those issues are just one part of it; the bigger issue is that of linking it through to community need.
  (Mr D'Souza) We need an holistic strategy to swimming. Part of the problem is that it has been very fragmented and disjointed to date. You will see a picture on the front of my report[8]. That is one of the swimming groups which has been moved to a swimming pool five miles away and only half the group is now actually swimming. Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the country and it is something which is very valued in communities that people have good access. Certainly learning from Australia which I have recently visited, there is support all the way through, not only for swimming clubs but right up to Olympic athletes. Swimming is at a crisis stage after years of neglect but if we do not invest now we shall be looking in 50 years' time like we are with tennis at the moment and saying "Do you remember the days when we used to win medals at swimming?". We do not really want to reach that stage. We want to do something about it now to plan for the future.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Two things at least have emerged from this. One is the high passions which are raised by public feelings about these buildings. The second is that Gill Wright has referred to maintaining and restoring these buildings as, among other things, urban regeneration. There is also the opposite aspect, namely urban degeneration when these buildings are lost, not only historic buildings of the kind we have been discussing today but I might as well say Gorton Tub at the other end of my constituency which the council wantonly closed down, where the only disabled facility of its type in the whole city was lost and where the disabled were told if they did not like it they could travel four miles to another local authority for the facilities. Thank you very much indeed.

6   Note by witness: However until the exact future proposals are released by Glasgow City Council an exact role cannot be defined. Back

7   Note by witness: based on information from Sport Scotland, Glasgow City Council, local residents and swimming clubs. Back

8   Not printed. Back

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