Anger as Halifax swimming pool closure 'will hit the poorest'

Closing a town’s swimming pool will most affect those on low incomes, says a father who is angry at the way its shutdown has happened.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 7:00 am
Halifax swimming pool

Halifax dad Alex Berry has written to Calderdale Council to cancel the silver membership his 15-year-old son Nye had at Halifax Swimming Pool which the authority announced earlier this year was to close permanently, having been shut during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Berry says he is not calling for the pool to be refurbished or rebuilt but is disgusted with the way it has been closed, arguing that without the pandemic it would have continued to open.

But the council says issues with the building had been worsening for years and rapidly recently and after careful consideration deemed “complex and costly” repairs which would have been necessary were not viable in light of the budget challenges it faces.

Mr Berry argues the council did not maintain the pool during lockdown, and alleges this was seen as an excuse to close it permanently.

“The suggestion is that the reason the pool isn’t really opening was because of lack of maintenance during the course of COVID.

“That’s a complete disgrace. They’ve let the pool go to rack and ruin,” he said.

Mr Berry said that at a time when there is concern about children’s obesity levels and building a promised replacement at North Bridge, Halifax, was likely to be months or years in the future, leaving the town without public provision most impacting people on lower incomes.

But Sarah Richardson, Calderdale Council’s Assistant Director of Customer Services, said closing Halifax Pool was not a decision taken lightly.

“We know it has been a much-loved facility for many years, and we understand how upsetting the closure has been for local people.

“However, the safety of the public and our employees is always our priority.

“The building is over 50 years old and has sadly been experiencing many maintenance problems and system failures over the past few years,” she said.

She said these issues pre-dated the enforced COVID-19 closure period and, as well as some further recent damage due to the age of the boiler, the site faced severe structural deterioration.

“We looked into all possible options for fully or partly reopening the pool, but unfortunately, complex and costly repairs would have been needed to bring the site up to modern standards suitable for people to enjoy, which is unviable with the significant budget challenges we’re facing.

“We introduced immediate safety measures to manage some of the most significant risks,” she said.

Ms Richardson said supporting people to live healthier lifestyles remained a longstanding commitment and included plans for the new, state-of-the-art swimming pool and complex in Halifax.

Council pools in Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden have now reopened and swimming lessons were being moved from Halifax Pool to other sites. The council was contacting everyone affected, she said.