Lifeline for threatened Yearsley Pool – council agrees to review its future

13 Jan 2015 @ 8.52 pm
| News
Lib Dem councillors and members of the Yearsley Pool Action Group meet Liberal Democrat deputy leader Sir Malcolm Bruce on a recent visit to Yearsley Pool

After its users put forward a passionate defence of Yearsley Pool’s importance to the city, councillors have agreed to conduct a review of its future.

The news was greeted with relief by campaigners who feared for the pool’s future. Last September City of York Council said it would cut the £250,000 annual subsidy given to the pool from 2016.

Many users of the pool feared this would spell the end of the baths that were built by Rowntrees and gifted to the city in 1909. A petition demanding the pool be saved has been signed by more than 6,500 people.

At a meeting of the council’s corporate & scrutiny management committee on Monday (January 12), pool users urged councillors to carry out an inquiry into the future of the pool.

‘It has produced Olympians’

Fiona Evans of the Yearsley Pool Action Group was one of those to speak. She told the meeting about the importance of the pool:

For over a hundred years this large pool has served the York community and clubs, enabling countless generations of children to learn the vital skill of swimming. It has produced Olympians, and nurtured world-class and national talent in a wide variety of water sports.

However, its greatest contribution is to the health and fitness of the York and wider community.

Given its importance she said the pool’s “future should be determined by a credible, and tangible process that is guided by the protocol of justice and public scrutiny”.

The fact this hadn’t happened was a “travesty of justice”

In 2012 we were given unequivocal promises that the current high standards of operation would continue, along with investment, ongoing maintenance and that the future of the facility would be assured under the terms of a contract with a private operator.

Pool users accepted the promises in good faith, sitting through “nearly three years of procurement details”.

At the end of the process, with no mandate, no public consultation, or even cross party debate, all of the promises were abandoned, and 14 days later, one party rubber stamped the one option to sacrifice Yearsley Pool.

The same officers and councilors now expect us to accept another review process in good faith, without any scrutiny protocols.

Tonight this committee has the power to redress this injustice, please accept our plea and initiate a process to try and secure a future for a vital public health facility.

Councillors agree

Following these impassioned pleas, councillors from all parties backed a Liberal Democrat call for a review into the future of Yearsley Pool.

This will investigate ways to reduce the subsidy given to the pool while securing its long-term future.

The inquiry will take place alongside work that is planned to be undertaken by council officers on the future of the pool.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Keith Aspden said this at the meeting:

“The cross-party review will have a more focused timetable than the proposed officer work; the meetings will happen in public allowing an open and transparent process; and the review will involve the Yearsley Pool Action Group.

This involvement adds significant credibility to the process. It will also send out a clear message that we are committed to keeping the pool open.”

You can read more detail about the Yearsley Swimming Pool feasibility study in the council documents – from page 27 of this PDF.