By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
A popular leisure pool in Deptford will reopen after a community campaign to save it.
Lewisham Council announced on Wednesday June 23 that the leisure pool at Wavelengths will reopen later this year after major renovation works, but the flumes will be removed.
The council said removing them will save £200,000 a year but the decision has been criticised locally.
Wavelengths Leisure Centre, which has a leisure pool with flumes and a 25-metre fitness pool, has not reopened to swimmers since the first lockdown.
Its future was uncertain after the council said in April that the cost of the repairs to allow it to reopen would be too high – now estimated at £770,000.
The council also said it was running at a deficit of about £400,000 per year.
On May 5 local residents launched a campaign to “save the much-loved Wavelengths leisure pool”.
They called on the mayor and council to “work with the local community to reopen the leisure pool at prices that remain affordable to all”.
Their petition has nearly 5,000 signatures.
And in a statement on Wednesday the council said it was “pleased to announce exciting new plans are being worked on that will see the leisure pool reopen, with beach-style seating areas and a range of inflatables and soft play to make the space even more family friendly”.
But the existing flumes will need to be removed, it said.
According to the statement: “These aging facilities have been regularly out of use due to repairs and the number of staff needed to safely run these facilities.
“Removing these facilities will save over £200,000 a year and will help to reduce the overall loss the Centre incurs.”
The repair works on the leisure pool will be funded by a combination of the existing leisure budget and Section 106 contributions from developers, which campaigners had suggested.
Work will start immediately and is expected to take about six months to complete.
The council is also looking into refurbishing the wave machine.
It said: “If viable it is hoped this can be reintroduced before the summer holidays next year.”
The 25 metre pool is expected to open in late July, with family activities taking place there until the leisure pool opens.
A spokesperson for the Save Wavelengths Campaign told the local democracy service: “We are thrilled that the voices of Deptford community have been heard and Wavelengths leisure pool will be reopened.
“A testament to ordinary people coming together with a shared passion. We will continue to scrutinise the plans and hold Lewisham council to account.
“Closure of the flumes is particularly concerning, with the apparent disintegration of safe play spaces for older children in the area.
“The flumes at Wavelengths were a great facility for teens, especially teen girls who we rarely see playing out. Deptford kids of all ages deserve the best.”
In a statement they thanked their supporters.
But they said the loss of the flumes was not what they wanted.
They added: “According to the council, the flumes represent around half of all running costs for the leisure pool.
“There will be some new features instead, such as inflatables, ‘beach style’ seating, mini soft play and a baby and toddler pool.
“Whilst we are disappointed to lose these facilities, we believe our cherished community leisure space can continue to inspire and entertain locals of all ages – and that its users can give valuable input into its development.
“Our campaign has shown the strength of people power. Local parents, disabled people, schoolchildren, and businesses have worked together with national swimming organisations and local sportspeople.
“We knew that this pool is special, popular, and must be saved. We were able to show council officers and elected representatives the true impact of its closure, which they had not imagined.
“We hope campaigners for public services will take heart from this news, and that our supporters will continue to engage with the future of Wavelengths.
“Crucially, our local leisure centre needs our paying custom, and we have also asked the council to work with us to create a Friends of Wavelengths forum for ongoing improvements to our pool. Thanks to everyone who has supported our campaign.”
Cllr Andre Bourne, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure centres, said: “Local people have told us that they really value the leisure water at Wavelengths – so do we, and I’m pleased we’ve found a way to invest in it and keep it open.
“We want Wavelengths to be a local family attraction so families can really make the most of the centre again.
“I am of course disappointed we need to remove the existing flumes, but by doing so we can afford to keep the leisure pool open.
“I think that is the right decision and I can’t wait to take my own children to the pool when it reopens.”
Cllr Bourne said the council is under significant financial pressure from Government funding cuts and Covid-19.
He said: “I’m determined to make Lewisham’s voice heard and I have written today to the Secretary of State, outlining the devastating position the Government’s funding decisions have put councils in and urging him to take action to ensure local swimming pools and other leisure facilities are properly funded for the long-term.”
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