Barton Pool may not reopen until Christmas

12 Oct 2023
The Barton Pool may not reopen until Christmas

It could be Christmas before the Barton Pool reopens to the public following the shock closure of the GL1 leisure centre, a senior councillor has admitted.

Councillor Andrew Lewis, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said he hoped the Barton Pool and the Twyver Pool would be reopened by January 1.

He was responding to questions from Liberal Democrat Councillor Jeremy Hilton during a meeting of the ruling Conservative cabinet on Wednesday evening.

Councillor Hilton had tabled a series of questions ahead of the meeting about the future of the two swimming pools, the GL1 leisure centre and the Oxstalls tennis centre.

The two sporting facilities closed suddenly on September 29 with the loss of more than 150 jobs after charitable trust Aspire went into liquidation.

Sports clubs, such as Gloucester City Swimming Club, have been left in the cold as have many private coaching sessions which use the indoor facilities at GL1, and tennis courts and outdoor sport pitches and Oxstalls.

Gloucester City Council has since announced a phased reopening of both leisure venues, but no date has been fixed for when the public can start using the swimming pools again.

In a written response to Councillor Hilton’s question, Councillor Lewis said: “We are working hard to contract with a leisure services operator to run all our leisure facilities at both Oxstalls and GL1.

“We are confident that once the interim provider is up and running and has the correct staffing levels and safety procedures in place, swimming with be able to be reinstated.

“Subject to council approval of the necessary delegation to officers, we aim to have a provider in place within a matter of weeks and will work with them to establish a timeline for re-opening the facilities as soon as possible.”

The Lib Dem leader of the opposition asked a follow-up verbal question in which he asked whether the pools would be open before January 1, by March 31 or after next May’s local elections.

Councillor Lewis confirmed the date of before January 1.

GL1 has lost out on considerable income from the hosting of swimming galas because the spectator seating area is closed and needs replacing.

New seating is due for installation in October, Councillor Lewis said.

As part of the negotiations between the council and Aspire before the trust went into administration, Councillor Lewis confirmed there were concerns about high gas and electricity bills.

“Given the concerns surrounding Aspire’s substantial energy bill, an independent energy audit should be conducted to assess the pool’s energy usage, identify potential energy-saving measures, and estimate the financial impact of implementing those measures,” Councillor Lewis said.

“This audit will provide valuable insights for both Aspire and the council, enabling them to make informed decisions about reducing energy costs and promoting sustainability.”

Speaking afterwards, Councillor Hilton, who is leader of the opposition on the city council, said: “The Conservatives let everyone down with the carefree attitude they took in negotiating a rescue package for Aspire that could have avoided the collapse of the trust and the closure of our sports facilities.

“The council needs to reopen its sports centres as soon as possible.

“Until yesterday’s cabinet meeting getting a date for the reopening of the swimming pools was proving difficult.

“Now the cabinet member has given me a verbal commitment that GL1’s swimming pools will be open by January 1.

“No ifs or buts he must deliver on this promise. He must carry out the swimming pools refurbishment. They must be reopened by January 1.”

An extraordinary general meeting of the city council is due to be held on October 19 to debate the Aspire Trust fiasco after Lib Dem councillors requested one.

The Lib Dems have already tabled a motion calling on council bosses to directly employ the staff to reopen the two sports centres as soon as possible.

Liberal Democrat councillors have raised concerns about the Aspire for some time now as it has been known the trust has been in financial difficulty for several years.