Function of the Pool
Sport as exercise is recognised as being ignored and even dismissed by some recent governments but the major concern of Public Health doctors now is the rise in obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, particularly in the young. The basis of this huge problem for future generations is the disparity between diet and exercise. Thus any facility that encourages exercise must be supported. It should be utilised by water polo, scuba diving and life support classes as well as those training for endurance swimming.
However this pool has an even more important use; it is used as a social meeting place by its main users, the 12-16 group. The interaction in the open-air without drink or drugs throughout the long summer holidays provides the largely social class C2 to E, multi-ethnic neighbourhood cohort with a vital outlet for the energy and urges of their age group in a safe and controlled environment. Finally there is a considerable group of adults who prefer the experience of swimming in an open-air pool and swim seriously and frequently.
The Friends of Broornhill Pool already have 15,000 signatures; this is a significant number for what is largely a neighbourhood facility.
The Pool was Listed Grade II only 18 months ago. As originally built, the architects' (Borough Surveyor's) plans were not followed completely. Over the years major alterations have taken place, most notably the demolition of the clock tower. Thus it is not a very original structure. But it is important to note that the condition of a building is irrelevant in the decision that the DCMS in conjunction with English Heritage would make concerning demolition. The Ipswich Conservation Panel and The Ipswich Society have recently discussed the future of the pool and have supported its continuing survival.
Unfortunately it was built on a slope down which it is very slowly but remorselessly sliding. This has resulted in large and increasing cracks in various parts, particularly the pool box. Further, the ferro-concrete of the period is now showing its characteristic rot due to rusting of the reinforcement rods. Whilst the 1997 structural survey said that the major remedial work should be commenced in 2003, it did not state that the pool would be unsafe to use by then. However major work does need to be done. Additional works to be done at the same time should be considered. These might include heating (interestingly much of the original 1938 system remains in situ), improved catering facilities and the question of changing rooms.
At least £2.5 m will be needed to produce a facility with say a twenty year life. Clearly we must accept that Ipswich Borough Council has not this amount available for this sort of project. There are however other avenues which must be explored. First and foremost is the Heritage Lottery Fund for whom this project would fulfil many of their criteria. Further capital might be raised from charities and from the community if the opportunity is allowed to arise.
This is probably the most difficult question to solve. Firstly despite the enthusiasm and devotion of the manager and his staff, it is part of the sports domain although it is agreed that its main function is social. It needs a much more leisure industry-orientated entrepreneurial approach. The Council could sell or lease it to either a Trust of which it would be a major part or it could offer it to the leisure industry. For it to survive after rebuilding it will need a longer opening period in the year, possibly all the year for some days in the week, longer opening hours in the season (workers can't swim in the day) and social events with appropriate catering in the evening. Consideration should be given to the abolition of the changing rooms altogether and the provision of a proper cafe. The decisions as to future management would need to be made before the acquisition of capital.
None of these ideas are fantasies dreamed up by enthusiasts; there are many lidos working successfully all over the UK. We and the Borough must not abandon this useful and much loved part of the town's heritage for the want of trying hard to find some innovative solutions to its current problems.