Pathetic Pool Plans

Okay – so as you can see from Joe’s pic here, stuff IS happening at the Heart of East Greenwich site. Whether they’re actually doing anything useful or just moving earth around to abide by rules that say they have to be seen to have started by a particular date is yet to be seen, but at least something’s happening. From a distance, this photo looks like a lovely cornfield, but obviously it’s just your bog-standard  urban brownfield site.

You’d have thought you could do anything with a site like that, wouldn’t you? You’re starting afresh – a blank canvas, carte-blanche, virgin territory and other such clichés. You could say you wanted a this, a that or a something else and it would be doable, because there’s nothing there to stop you, yeah?

No, apparently.

I’ve been hearing about the young divers at Greenwich Swimming Club. As most people know, the new leisure centre at our blank canvas site will have two pools – a splash-around fun /teaching pool and a serious ‘fitness’ pool. Perfect for the club, eh?

Er, no.

Elaine, one of the swimmers’ mums, explains:

Unfortunately, the depth of the water in the new fitness pool is a major problem for us. The bottom of the pool is a ‘V’ shape. It will be 1 metre deep (or shallow) at both ends, and 1.5 metres deep in the middle.

Although you are allowed to dive in when the pool is 1 metre deep, the ASA – our governing body – recommends a depth of 1.8 metres for swimmers to practice dives in. 

To put it in perspective, the shallow end at the Eltham Centre’s pool is 1 metre deep. And no swimmer – not even top swimmers at a gala – are allowed to dive in as they deem that it is too shallow to dive in.

Greenwich is an Olympic Borough, but plans to build a brand new pool which a swimming club can’t learn to dive in.

I was puzzled by this – I mean – you have the opportunity here to build something extraordinary and already, before work’s begun, it’s a second-class development that other boroughs laugh at and no serious swimmers will touch. Forget any future competitions being held there or potential Greenwich divers at the Brazil Olympics.

Mary Mills was puzzled too, not least because she thought it had thought it had been sorted out several years ago.

Here’s the reply she got. The bits I’ve put into bold are what I suspect are the real reasons for cutting  corners, the bits in red are my own additions.

We have been briefing   representatives of Greenwich Swimming Clubs in relation to the depth of the proposed swimming pools at the new Greenwich Centre. They have asked for the pool to be deepened from1.5 metres in the agreed (by whom?) design to a depth of  1.8 metres.

The current  proposals are based on the requirements identified by GLL and representatives of the Boroughs client team (Qui est-ce?). They aim to meet the needs of the community as a whole.  They are also affordable within the  budget  agreed by members.

The current proposal is for both  pools  to have a double shallow end with their deepest point in the middle of the pool .

The advantage of this approach  to our residents is

1.      Greater teaching water capacity for Learn to Swim Programme

2.      Improved  leisure water for family use

3.      Higher Quality replacement of Arches LC which has considerable shallow water in the leisure pool.

4.      Ability to programme aquarobics in one linear half of the pool and still have
3 x 25m lanes

Actually, fair do’s. I buy all these reasons – but there is a dedicated fun/teaching pool for that sort of thing. What we’re talking about here is the serious ‘fitness pool’ for people who are looking to take the sport to another level. A pool like, um, the one we have at the moment at the Arches which will be closed when this one opens.

The Amateur Swimming Association  say 1 metre is deep enough to turn and dive in competitively.

But Eltham Pool, run by the same council, doesn’t allow diving in that depth because it’s dangerous.

The Borough and its operators view is that deeper water inhibits and restricts more general family and recreational use as well as non club lessons.

Again – what are they doing in the ‘serious’ pool? That’s what the leisure pool’s for. 

Swimmers can learn to dive and turn elsewhere in the Borough  and then will be able to dive and turn at the Greenwich Centre. The deep end at the Eltham pool is 2 m and the deep end at the Lido which will be open before the Greenwich Centre is also 2 m.

Can I just say ‘brrrrrrrrr’ in December?

For comparative purposes the Waterfront Fitness Pool is double shallow ended at 0.9 m with the deep section in the middle at 1.5m. While making one area of the pool 300 mm deeper might not seem to be that great an issue it actually represents significant additional expenditure which has not been identified as part of the Scheme and Estimate.

As the pool is in the basement any additional depth means further  digging out. There is a high water table under the Greenwich Centre and the building is going to have to have what is known as a grout blanket underneath it to prevent water coming up through the foundations.

Doesn’t that put half of Greenwich in trouble? Where can I buy one of these grout blankets? Looks like I’m going to need one at Phantom Towers come the Mighty Flood…

This water will also be at quite a high pressure. The base slab for the building all needs to be at the same leveltherefore the digging out of the extra 300 mm will need to be across the whole footprint of the site and not just the area where the pool is deeper.

Yes, but the developers always knew that that’s what happens with swimming pools in basements. Surely they should have taken that into account when they made the decision to have a pool there? 

There are other implications where a deeper pool means a greater volume to water so that a larger plant room is required. This leads to an estimate of additional extra costs of £1.1m.as well delays to the overall programme to the scheme. The basement is a complex technical construction and underpins the Centre as a whole.

I don’t know. I know we’re in trouble financially, but this seems to be a long-term investment where, if corners are cut now, the future citizens of Greenwich are going to hate us forever. In an Olympic year, it appears we’re considering building a fitness swimming pool that isn’t fit for purpose from the start.

Just a thought – but is it too late to apply for Olympic Legacy money? After all we’re getting precious little else…

Actually, since I wrote this piece this morning, a petition and a FB page have been set up – quick work, eh. There is a very slim hope yet. So get signing, eh!


the attachments to this post:

development at heart of east greenwich joe low
development at heart of east greenwich joe low


17 Comments to “Pathetic Pool Plans”

  1. Dan says:

    Absolutely shocking. What a farce.

  2. Pedo says:

    Yes, simply pathetic. A bunch of doubtless highly-paid people coming up with complex reasons for something that’s obviously vital.

    Why couldn’t they simply raise the swimming pool by the 30cm, so you step up to it rather than it being flush with the floor?

    I especially love “swimmers can learn to dive and swim elsewhere in the Borough…”

    Why is it so small a surprise that we’ll lose Greenwich Arches, get something markedly inferior, and the Borough will end up with even more crappy apartments…

  3. Darryl says:

    Elsewhere in the borough? Balls to that, it’ll be quicker to nip down to the new pool in Lewisham when that opens, probably before the Greenwich one.

  4. SunnyW says:

    I don’t want to swim in an oversized bathtub. If you feel the same, please sign this petition to tell the council how you feel:

    http://www.petition.co.uk/make-the-new-greenwich-swimming-pool-1-8m-at-the-deep-end/comment-page-1/#comment-169786

  5. Chris says:

    Once again there seems to have been a total lack of proper consultation here.

    Where have I heard that before?

  6. Nikki says:

    This is really sad. When I was growing up, the debate around swimming pool provision was that there wasn’t enough 50m pools; now no one even expects a decent length but you’d think that you could count on waist-high water. There’s no way you could have competitive swimming for kids in a pool with two ends at 1m – it would be really dangerous. No one’s expecting to be able to carry out Tom Daley-style dives at a fitness pool, but you should be able to safely carry out a racing start from a block and get it fractionally wrong without dashing your brains out. Meanwhile, you really don’t have to be able to swim that well to deal with a deep end of 1.8m – if you’re not confident enough to manage swimming where you can’t put your feet down, you really shouldn’t be swimming outside supervised sessions which could take place in the shallow end as such things have in shallow ends of pools forever. I’ve been doing a bit of swimming myself recently because I’m trying to get myself fit for the Great London Swim, and have been to all the Greenwich borough pools that are open at the moment within the last couple of weeks.

    Eltham is great – bright, clean, wide, and I confess that even after swimming there yesterday I didn’t realise that one end was as deep as 2m. I went in with lowered expectations because many modern pools are too shallow and didn’t even notice that this one wasn’t. Quite a long way away from the Arches’ current swimmers though, I’d have thought.

    Waterfront is too warm, too shallow and you have to shower in full view of the pool, so little chance of rinsing all the chlorine off yourself. It really isn’t a pool the council should be relying upon as an example of how things should be done.

    It will be a shame for the current swimmers of the Arches not to be able to learn race starts in the new pool, but I wouldn’t want to overstate any claims for the pool itself. I have a lot of affection for the Arches because I used to swim there a lot when I lived in east Greenwich, but it’s a bit dingy in there, the changing rooms last week looked like someone had deliberately tried to make them shoddier since the last time I was there in 2006 or so, and the pool isn’t a standard length. Worse, it’s shorter than a standard length.

    Which leaves the one that isn’t open: I swim, and I live in Charlton, so you’d expect me to have a bee in my bonnet about the Lido, and I do. Nice to see a delightful picture of children being roped into a stunt last week to announce some funding for it in Greenwich Time – would be even nicer if the article had mentioned when it might be finished. More than enough swimming ranting from me – sorry – am off to sign the petition now.

  7. [...] might have read The Greenwich Phantom’s damning post about the plans for Greenwich’s new swimming pool. If you haven’t, go and read it [...]

  8. Annie says:

    It is sad that there is a missed opportunity here to make the new pool more available for competitive swimming. However the pool at Eltham is fit for this purpose and is part of the Borough. I live outside of the immediate area of Greenwich and it is often the case that everything new and shiny is offered here and residents from the poorer parts of the Borough will travel to take part in what Greenwich offers, why can Greenwich residents not travel to make use of the rest of their borough, i.e. with the park being closed – there are other great green spaces i.e. Oxleas / Bostall woods. No one is campaigning to improve the facilities at Woolwich or Thamesmead leisure centres are they! I am sorry but Greenwich simply “can’t have it all” and those residents who will not travel to other areas of the borough should just get out there and see what else is on offer. It is after all no further to get from Greenwich to Eltham as it is to get from Eltham to Greenwich!!!

  9. Franklin says:

    Annie -

    I see two problems with your proposal.

    First, you’re suggesting that people who can currently walk to their local pool should get in their cars and drive (or take a bus) across the borough. Not very sustainable, IMHO.

    Second, Greenwich already HAS a pool that’s deep enough for diving. We’re losing that as a result of this new development. So this is not an “addition”, it’s a replacement. The replacement should be at least as good and as useful as what we already have.

  10. Meirion says:

    When Hadley Mace signed the deal last June to build 645 flats at the Heart all their projections must have been that prices would fall or be flat. Instead over the last year the estate agents are saying Greenwich prices have gone up. If you said a rise of £10,000 an apartment that would be conservative and would leave them with an extra £6 million in profit. They can probably afford the extra million to build a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool.

  11. Mary says:

    Despite the prominence given to me in the Phantom’s write up above – I have only very, very marginally ever been involved in all this.
    However I do keep turning what people are saying over in my mind – so this is to say if anyone wanted to talk me through this I might be grateful.
    and I would have to add a couple of caveats to that – mostly to say not to expect too much from me.
    mary.mills@greenwich.gov.uk

  12. Annie says:

    Franklin – the point is not so much about the new pool, it is of course agreed that anything new should atleast match what is already there and this should have been considered,
    but that for those of us living elsewhere in the Borough it often feels to be the case that some residents of Greenwich rarely visit or remember that there are other parts of the Borough, yet other residents of the Borough are expected to “traipse” to Greenwich for any interesting or major event. E.G. All those people complaining they cannot access the park for the Olympics seem to miss that there are many other green spaces around. I just donot like the insinuation that it is difficult to access Eltham when it is not considered difficult for us to get to Greenwich. We are one borough in one city and there is too much division. Kids attending swim club come from all over and dont just live in walking distance to the Arches.

  13. Kate says:

    Annie – they are building a brand new pool.
    They can therefore build any pool they like, yet we are being fobbed off with a too-shallow, sub standard pool. It’s a false economy and a missed opportunity.

    I’ll bet there are no ‘budgetary constraints’ on all the other development on the site.

  14. Ed says:

    Annie, the point is that actually there is and always has been a chronic shortage of suitable competition and serious training pools across the borough. It’s not a case of ‘Greenwich getting a new pool’, its a case of the borough closing a suitable existing pool without replacing it.

    They did the same with Waterfront, I remember that Waterfront was equipped with ranked seating when it was built, which was never used because the pool had two shallow ends.

    Unfortunately, the council and GLL make a lot more money out of gym members than they do from swimming clubs. They like to offer exclusive or near exclusive use of the pool to users of their ‘fitness clubs’ or have the space to offer profitable activities like ‘water aerobics’. Unfortunately these groups have interests which are directly at odds with competitive swimming. GLL has been squeezing the hours that clubs can use the pool for years, with the result that children who are competitive swimmers are forced to swim later and later – from their website most of Greenwich Swimming Club’s sessions finish after 9pm.

    A competition pool has fairly clear standards, published by the ASA, if the pool doesn’t meet them, then it is clearly a case of negligence, incompetence or greed on the part of the council and GLL.

  15. Ed says:

    Sorry to double post (bad form I know)

    Annie – kids actually shouldn’t have to come from all over, there are already swimming clubs using the other pools in the borough. There is no spare capacity for competitive training.
    No deep end=no diving starts,
    no diving starts=no competitive training possible in that pool,
    no training possible=club closes down.
    Will the kids go elsewhere? I don’t know, but if training finishes at 9 or 10pm on a school night and Eltham pool is a half hour bus ride away – you do the maths.

  16. Debs says:

    Annie, I don’t think that Greenwich Swimming Club would be able to access pool time at Eltham as it is already used by another swimming club, Greenwich Borough Mariners.

    Also Eltham is quite difficult to get to from Greenwich if you are using public transport.

  17. Henry Browne says:

    Our Council says that “the new Greenwich Centre … is being delivered at zero-cost to the tax payer as it’s being funded entirely by the disposal of Royal Borough of Greenwich assets”.

    So, given that what they’re currently building hasn’t cost us anything, why doesn’t the Council spend nothing more and simply sell another asset… and then deliver a swimming pool that’s fit for purpose?

    As it happens, they used the same financing approach to pay for their own rather grand Council offices (which are all the way off in Woolwich, Annie). They don’t seem to have sacrificed much when it comes to those self-serving facilities.

    Finally, what happened to the “Section 106″ money that the Council gets from its many developers? Perhaps some of that could be spent on delivering a proper sports facility? After all, Section 106 money is set aside for the provision of community benefits e.g. like a pool!