Many of us have been pleased that sport, leisure facilities and pools have gradually reopened following the lockdown. Being able to join a fitness class, play sport or enjoy a swim has huge benefits for physical and mental health and something we want everyone in Bristol to be able to have.
We have now re-opened all of our pools and leisure centres except for Jubilee pool in Knowle. All of our leisure centres and pools are ran by external operators who share the risks and operating costs with us and the operator of Jubilee pool approached us during lockdown to advise that they wanted to terminate their contract, due primarily to forecasting losses on running the re-opened pool, post-Covid.
Having reviewed the assessment of running costs, the low usage of that pool and the costs required to bring it to a long-term sustainable standard, we agreed with that assessment. It is also worth noting that Jubilee Pool was planned for closure when the Liberal Democrat administration in April 2010 signed a financing deal to open the new, larger and modern pool in nearby Hengrove. It was the right decision to open a new pool and many people have migrated from Jubilee to Hengrove for better facilities.
The decision to not reopen Jubilee is a difficult one, and is also supported by the need to sustain all the other pools in the city that are more long-term financially sustainable but also need financial support in the short to medium term as we return with reduced usage post-Covid.
As a result, we have started a consultation on what we should do next. Council sport and finance officers have recommended its closure in the face of the financial pressures, alongside the wider financial challenges the council currently faces as a result of a funding gap, where government has not refunded all the costs the council incurred during the pandemic so far. No decisions have yet been taken, and I have publicly spoken about how we would welcome community led solutions. I have asked councillors to work with the local community to look at options for a community led solution and I am prepared to transfer the asset for free to the community if we can build a sustainable business plan. The community is best placed to find a solution and grow usage. For example, if the almost 5,000 people who signed the petition are encouraged to use the pool, it would become immediately viable. I have extended the consultation for one month to support this process.
On the wider point of Bristol’s swimming facilities, we are doing pretty well. Bristol does better than most other core cities for pool space offered. We want to retain this level and grow usage across the city with modern, viable pools.
The tables below show that Bristol’s residents enjoy an upper quartile level of access to swimming facilities.
Bristol’s absolute level of provision is third behind Leeds and the much larger Birmingham in core city rankings and also third in provision per 1,000 people.
|City||Public Swimming Space (Sq. Ms)||City||Public Swimming Space Sq. Ms. Per 1,000 pop.||City||Swimming Pool |
One pool per x people
You can share your views and solutions on the council’s consultation page here.