Skip to content

What Peterborough's regional pool plan is missing

Yesterday we spoke to former chair of Vivacity Stewart Francis on the future of leisure in the city; today we provide his thoughts on the new regional pool, along with those of diver and swimmer John Whitby - and both believe the plans are missing vital elements...
Regional Pool new
The proposed regional pool will include a sauna and relaxation space

The plan that Vivacity had etched out with the council included plans for the library, a new regional pool, and one in Werrington. So in itself the town fund is not new thinking.

But I do find the plan for the new regional pool interesting - because there's something missing.

Why is there no hydrotherapy pool? The one set of people who have been forgotten is the disabled, because St George's is falling apart.

It's been promised that we will have one here, because the next nearest is in Addenbrookes, and the NHS will not fund one because we already have that one in the county.

St George's has two years before it falls apart. It's a facility used by disabled people, by those recovering from car accidents, and we are an aging population.

So it's a crucial investment for our future which will pay itself back through savings in social care. 

I will always use opportunities like this to speak up for people with disabilities, who were among those most affected by Covid. We have a duty to think about them.

Former city councillor John Whitby is also a former medal-winning diver at national level. Here are his views: 

From what I have seen the plans are not actually compatible with anything that would be recognisable as a ‘regional pool’, it is, at best, a local town pool. The meeting I attended in 2006 not long after I came to Peterborough actually stated that what Peterborough needed then was an additional 50m of pool space to give the recommended water area per head of population.

Now, 14 years later with the regional going we are getting actually less water space than the regional AND losing facilities and St Georges is on the way out too.

This was a golden opportunity to invest in a real regional pool, one that would give Peterborough now and in the future a real centre which, alongside the University plans, could have an impact on the delivery of courses in sports science.

In addition, a flexible water space, with the draw of activities like diving gives much more opportunity to actually generate real revenue.

Diving itself is obviously a specific area of expertise of mine and I ran a very successful diving programme for the regional pools for a number of years with no backing from them and very limited access – a total of 2 hours a week.

But the public session, when the access was following sensible rules, actually bought in a large number of youths who otherwise didn’t go to the pool. I know from information I’ve been given that in other pools diving doubled the turnover on certain days, and the loss of it in one pool (Aberdare) saw the pools turnover plummet!

There seems to be this need to make the pool an architectural statement and shoe-horn it into a small space. I know from enquiries about swimming lessons for my child that the waiting list for learn to swim a couple of years ago was over a year for a three year old. Corby had availability in 3 months.

Corby late last year were delivering 10 simultaneous lesson session during the restrictions…

A properly specified pool would have huge benefits for the city and it should be a regional aquatics centre – allowing all aquatic activities to be undertaken.

It gives a good facility to the city allowing lessons and development for COPS, it would bring in events that has a positive impact on the businesses in the area, it would offer a facility and sports to both the local population and the wider region, again bringing money into the city.

But this is also a 50 year project – we are not going to get another pool built of this type before 2070!

Think positive, plan ahead and deliver something of which Peterborough can be proud – and it will then bring much into the city too.

In a report to the PCC Shareholder Cabinet Committee last month more details were revealed regarding the new £38m replacement for the current regional pool.

The new leisure centre - seen above in an artist's impression prepared by NORR architects - has been approved for purchase by the council from PIP, subject to a best value review, and more detail (including the legal purchase contract) is currently being worked through with plans to submit a planning application later this year. 

The proposal includes the installation of an eight-lane, 25m pool with around 300 spectator seats, a 17mx15m teaching pool, sauna and relaxation space, and a 350sqm of family-friendly leisure water, with water features and toddler splash area. 

The site was chosen as the preferred option in November, after several proposals were discussed regarding its location, before eventually confirming Pleasure Fair Meadows car park as the intended leisure centre site.