Yearsley Pool is a national treasure. Don’t sacrifice it to the new stadium

10 Dec 2014 @ 2.09 pm
| Health, Opinion, Sport

York’s largest pool is under threat. Fiona Evans, of the Yearsley Pool Action Group, says losing it would be a huge mistake

Bigger than most… Yearsley Pool on Haley’s Terrace. Photograph: Bob Jowett
Yearsley Pool is no ordinary pool. It is unique, and a proud part of the Rowntree legacy and history of our city.

This Edwardian facility was gifted to York’s citizens in 1909 by Rowntree & Co Ltd and has provided over 100 years of faithful public service towards the health, fitness, sporting talent and water safety of the York community.

It is not only a vital community asset, it is a national treasure and deserves to be valued for all it provides.

Although the pool is more than 100 years old, it is no museum piece. It still provides a vital and irreplaceable service, especially with the backdrop of river deaths, sedentary lifestyles, rising obesity levels, and the associated impacts on national and local health services.

York’s largest pool

Yearsley Pool is York’s only large, long length pool. This makes it the best pool for clubs, endurance and fitness swimming.

A 25m pool cannot provide the same benefits, and is inadequate for the needs of a wide range of user groups.

Yearsley is the only pool long enough for swimmers to overtake /swim at their own pace without collisions and continual turning. This maximises the benefits of the exercise.

It is the only pool large enough to meet the needs of certain sports eg canoe polo. If Yearsley is lost, the sport of canoe polo in Yorkshire will be lost, and they have got youngsters all the way through to world championship level representing Great Britain.

National canoe polo players travel from all over the country to hold their tournaments at Yearsley Pool on Saturday evenings between September and April.

Triathletes, scuba divers, underwater hockey teams, general canoeists and York City Baths Club (amongst others) will all suffer if the facility is lost, as the size and length of the pool is beneficial to them.

Yearsley is YCBC’s only long-length training facility. If children are to build the necessary stamina to compete in 50m pools, they need a 50 yard facility, rather than a 25m pool.

York’s community pool

Campaigners collect signatures for a petition to save Yearsley Pool in Parliament Street
Yearsley is also a good pool for the frail, nervous and disabled to swim in, as it provides the space to avoid collisions.

The pool is conveniently located close to the city centre, residential areas, workplaces and schools making it convenient to use, and it cuts car use. Fourteen schools use Yearsley Pool – some local schools walk to the facility.

Although the pool is subsidised, in the bigger picture it saves money for local health services and elderly care services. It saves lives and nurtures the talent of our children.

The subsidy of £250,000 per year sounds a lot to an ordinary citizen, but in reality only represents 0.2% of the council’s total annual revenue budget, a small sum compared to all the benefits this large pool provides to the community, especially in a city that lies at the confluence of two rivers.

There is a real sense of community and social contact at this pool, and it is held in great affection by the countless generations that have learnt to swim there.

Irrespective of how many new, pretty small pools are built in York, they cannot possibly replace the service that Yearsley’s long length, large capacity pool provides.

York’s good value pool

Run by the council – but not subsidised for much longer
Yearsley Pool received a superb £1.2 million refurbishment in 2007 and new boilers in 2012. This was a major upgrade that included renewing the roof, walls, plant room, and fitments.

If this much loved facility was to close, not only would it be a loss to the community, it would also represent a scandalous waste of public money.

The action group does not oppose the need for a new football and rugby stadium. We want all sports to flourish.

Yearsley Pool

Built by Rowntree & Co in 1908 and gifted by deed to the citizens of York on 4th May 1909

It replaced an old bath in the River Foss downstream of Yearsley Bridge

The new pool was originally open-air

The facility was modernised in 1964/5 when it was roofed over

The pool tank is relatively unaltered and the poolside cubicles retain many original features

Source: York Local List

What we oppose is the injustice of Yearsley Pool becoming entangled in this process and being offered as a sacrifice to facilitate it.

The council says it cannot afford to subsidise a public health facility like Yearsley Pool, which is about participation from all sections of society from babies to the elderly.

However, the Labour council is happy to provide 100% of the leisure subsidy (£323,000 per annum) to support the stadium for private spectator sports, principally football.

The council will also be paying £360,000 interest per annum (affecting revenue) from 2016/2017 as a result of borrowing the £4 million it is putting towards the new complex.

If that’s the case fine, all we are asking for is equality of treatment and a meaningful commitment to the future of Yearsley Pool as was originally promised by James Alexander.

Waterworld users have not been consulted over the new pool plans. The existing fun pool complemented Yearsley’s more serious swimming environment, and its loss will disappoint many children.

We believe the new 25m pool was designed to replace both Waterworld and Yearsley Pool, rather than to complement. Why else would the Labour council give zero subsidy to Yearsley Pool in 2016, just before the new complex opens?