Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
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.
22. It appears from what you are saying that
you moved to Glasgow just in the summer of this year, is that
(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
(Mr D'Souza) It is both.
There is a saveourpool.co.uk 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
(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
(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.
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
(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.
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.
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
Note by witness: based on information from Sport Scotland,
Glasgow City Council, local residents and swimming clubs. Back
Not printed. Back