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DAMESATHOME@YAHOO.CO.UK
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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

CHELSEA SWIMMERS GO OFF AT THE DEEP END

A Chelsea swimmer writes to the Dame....

Dearest Dame,
Over the last couple of years RBKC alienated many different sectors of their electorate with unpopular decisions, such as supporting a CrossRail2, Kings Rd station, Marlborough School, Thamesbrook, Chelsea Manor Court telephone aerials, Sutton estate, Brompton Hospital SPD. They now add to the list a new sector of adult swimmers who seek to keep fit and healthy by swimming in the Town Hall pool. 

The council has decided to spend £1.7 million partly to ‘upgrade’  some functional aspects of the pool such as ventilation, heating, re-tiling etc which is generally supported, but also by tearing down a dividing wall to make the existing separate sex changing rooms into a “unisex village”.
A quick search of the internet reveals strong resident objections in other parts of the country to having this foisted on them, from Cleethorpes to Leamington, Stratford to Warwick and Woodbridge.
This is not welcome either to daily Chelsea users, because it will break the current much-loved locker room talks, which are regarded as a part of the positive social benefit additional to the swimming. They will be lost as everyone will have to change in their own separate cubicle. It will also slow down changing since it will be broken into several queueing points for showers, cubicles etc. and loss of speed and communality of the ‘changing bench.’
There is considerable anger and opposition amongst the vast majority of regular swimmers, who are council tax payers, to the imposition of these plans.  The Consultation Process was not transparent but opaque. Letters concerning this, and to Cabinet members and managers at GLL went unheeded. Objectors were not listened to. No results of consultation has been published to show how many people supported it or what they thought they were voting for. Unisex changing was not mentioned in the 4 questions of the Consultation questionnaire.  
RBKC agreed to the choice of a firm of ‘chartered surveyors’ rather than architects to produce a plan. More sensible alternative plans have been drawn up by swimmers who are architects, showing that it is quite possible to divide the space into 3 divisions - men/ women/ and schools + families, with corridors on either side parallel to the pool. These have been ignored.
Chelsea pool in its present form has unique character: it has soul. The proposed plans may suit a new build large leisure center, but to impose them on the listed Chelsea Pool without regard to the local residents/tax payers and regular swimmers is wrong. It interferes with a tradition and a culture which supports daily swimmers, quite possibly keeping them healthier and thus indirectly saving money which we are now told is needed for adult social care. It is a significant part of the experience of their daily swim. Raised at one of the meetings, swimmers were told they could chat at the side of the pool, or outside in the street.  What a good solution!!
An eloquent 3 minute speech from a daily swimmer at the planning application hearing supported the swimmers’ feelings perfectly. This led to 2 of the 3 conservative planning panel members voting against it, only one in favour. The plan was only passed by the chairman voting and using a casting vote which he had not done for other applications that night. Had a Labour member who was ill that night been present it would probably have been refused.
In the Royal Borough newsletter Spring 2017 we learn the 1.9% increase in council tax will bring in £1.5million which would otherwise have needed to be found from other cuts. Perhaps if they had decided to only spend on the essentials at the pool such as a new boiler they could have avoided much of the tax increase which is a similar sum to what is being spent on the Chelsea pool. 
In the same newspaper the council boasted of helping to get young local people “active” with free sessions on cookery, growing their own food  (growing your own food in London is rather difficult.)
 They also said ‘inactivity is a major cause of obesity’, but failed to mention the wasted money on the “unisex changes” which only extends pool closure time. This is why objectors to this silly scheme want to continue their swimming which is a real and irreplaceable way to keep slim and heathy.

 Unlike Westminster which makes swimming in its council pools free to all residents of their borough RBKC has made no steps in that direction at all. Nor has it attempted to offer alternatives to swimmers at no extra cost from “the Ist April to the end of summer“ that it seems to expect the pool to be out of action.

9 comments:

  1. Piggy is a frequent swimmer - often seen at North Kensington leisure center. He should be consulted about this to hear his opinion

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  2. Too many Councillors, too much money, and not enough to do.

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  3. How £1.7m can be afforded at a time of financial stringency has not been explained. Presumably some stand to make money out of this scheme. Who are they? The claim that the present changing rooms are old and need redoing is untrue. They were renewed not so many years ago, when again the pool was closed for the whole summer,

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  4. "It is old and needs to be replaced" has become a broken record in the Royal Borough. "50 yrs old" was the excuse to knock down and rebuild Holland Park School (my school is 600 yrs old). "16 years old" was the excuse to knock down and rebuild Lancer Square.

    Officers sign the Planning Application and developers make £ millions. And brown envelopes change hands.

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  5. Unisex changing has not gone down well at the new Kensington Leisure Centre either. Nor lots of other things at that Centre. But the architect who designed it told us at the first consultation meeting that he was "the best leisure centre architect in the country". And Cllr Joanna Gardner's working group report on leisure centres was completely ignored.

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  6. It's quite possible that the intention here is for the Rotten Borough to deter swimmers from using yet another publicly owned and funded facility. Then Horton Street can claim low use, so the pool must be closed. The facilities will then be handed to a private operator etc. The usual story. This is RBKC's standard method for stealing public assets from the public for the benefit of private interests.

    Perhaps an interested resident can research the long term fortunes of public swimming pools with "unisex" changing rooms. It seems pretty obvious that mothers of small children, older people and many others are less likely to use a pool with mixed sex changing rooms.

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  7. Another one bites the dust31 March 2017 at 15:53

    Fly Swatter rightly reminds us of brown envelopes. The fine building and library in North Kensington was lost last night at the Planning Committee - from a public library to a private school. The Chair was heard remarking as he left "we had a successful evening" ...

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  8. I GUARANTEE that piggy will not like unisex changing rooms

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  9. Consultation on the revaMP 6th April whilst everyone is away on Easter holiday.

    Nice one boys!

    Chelsea Old Town Hall 'refurbishment'

    When: Thursday 6 April 2017
    Where: Small Hall, Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road SW3 5EE
    Time: 2pm to 8pm

    https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/council-capital-projects/chelsea-old-town-hall-refurbishment/public-exhibition

    ReplyDelete

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