Historic pool denied £2million lifeline

SUFFOLK's only Olympic-sized swimming pool has been denied a £2m lifeline - a decision that campaigners said “flew in the face” of a 2012-inspired drive to get more people involved in sport and fitness.

Craig Robinson

SUFFOLK's only Olympic-sized swimming pool has been denied a £2m lifeline - a decision that campaigners said “flew in the face” of a 2012-inspired drive to get more people involved in sport and fitness.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) yesterday rejected a bid to restore the historic Broomhill Pool in Ipswich, which has been closed for six years.

The decision was met with dismay by campaigners - especially at a time when the Government is promoting the need for exercise to prevent growing levels of obesity.

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The Grade II listed lido, in Sherrington Road, was shut in 2002 because Ipswich Borough Council thought it was unsafe and too expensive to renovate.

The council has since pledged to give £1m to help with its restoration - so long as members of the Broomhill Pool Trust could guarantee the rest of the £3.9m that would be needed for it to be re-opened.

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But last night their hopes suffered a huge blow when the HLF announced that it had rejected the group's bid for £1.9m in funding to help with the renovations.

Long-distance swimmer Mike Read, who is a member of the trust, said: “We are always told the Government want to support sport at grassroots level - they are saying people can swim for free in an effort to stem obesity but when is it going to happen? Where is it going to happen? Certainly not Ipswich.

“This decision totally flies in the face of what they have said in the past. I can't help thinking they get carried away with terms of utopia and centres of excellence - what we really need are centres of activity.”

Mr Read, who has swum the English Channel a staggering 33 times, added: “It's heartbreaking because a golden opportunity has been lost.”

Mark Ling, spokesman for the Broomhill Pool Trust, said the group was “extremely disappointed” but pledged to continue with the restoration. “We believed we had submitted a strong case that showed the pool was viable,” he said.

The lido, which celebrated its 70th birthday in April, was opened in 1938 and is Suffolk's only Olympic sized swimming pool.

Judy Terry, Ipswich Borough Council's arts, culture and leisure portfolio holder, said she would soon meet members of the trust and then report back to the executive committee.

“We made a commitment to give £1m to the trust if they could raise funds to restore the pool and now we'll have to review our position,” she said.

In June the Government announced that England's swimming pools could be free to use by the time of the London Olympics as part of a bid to get more people involved in sport by 2012.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said it was a “tough decision” to reject Broomhill's application.

“We are aware that this project has a huge amount of public support in the local area,” he said. “There were, however, significant concerns about project delivery and future sustainability without a greater commitment from Ipswich Borough Council, the owners of the site. Therefore the committee considered that the project was too high risk.”

The HLF was set up by Parliament in 1994 to give grants to a wide range of projects involving the local, regional and national heritage of the UK.

Its decisions about individual applications and policies are entirely independent but it reports to Government through the department for Culture, Media and Sport .

N Mr Ling said Broomhill would still be opening its doors tomorrow and Sunday between 10am and 5pm. Members of the public will be able to view safe areas of the pool site and there will be an exhibition of the lido, competitions and raffle prizes. There will also be a barbecue and party tomorrow at the Emperor public house on Norwich Road at 6pm.

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