I have many issues with the strategy and the points made within it:
Firstly the Aquatics strategy has no provisions for any other part of the city other than the development at Central Park. The document does not take into account the lack of swimming provisions in Plympton or the North of the city, residents in these areas have campaigned for years for improvements which seem to have been denied to them. The document does not comment in any way on the Tinside Lido yet when the Lido was refurbished we were told it would be a major attraction for the city, we now know that the Lido is losing money and is not proving to be financially viable.
The strategy states that "The Aquatics strategy will establish a Plymouth Aquatics Academy this will be a new citywide structure for the organisation and delivery of swimming, diving and water polo, not based on one club identity." Does this statement mean the end of the smaller clubs who will be absorbed by one big club? How will this affect existing clubs such as Leander who have made a big name for themselves without the need for a 50 million life centre or an academy to dictate to them? The strategy does however recognise the success of clubs such as Leander - "The most successful age group swimming club in the country, Plymouth Leander (Swim 21 accredited), is based in the city, at Plymouth College. Plymouth is one of four high performance diving centres in the country– the others being Southampton, Leeds, and Sheffield. Some of the most successful and talented divers in the world; Tom Daley and Tonya Crouch, and Brooke Graddon are based in the city." We as a city are already producing world champions, so again, why the need for the life centre? Is this simply a publicity bid by the council so that they can take the credit for our existing champions?
The strategy also states that "Swimming is the largest participation sport in the city; given the low level of participation recorded in the 2006/07 Active People Survey (APS) (18.6 per cent) there is an obvious need to increase levels of participation and swimming provides a key opportunity as it is already the highest participation sport in the city. The APS results 2008/09 show an increase in participation to 23.5 per cent."
The aquatic strategy fails to comment on the largest aquatic facility in Plymouth; Plymouth Sound. Surely the development of Plymouth Sound and the hoe foreshore would benefit more people and be more beneficial for tourism? The Hoe diving boards have been removed with no plans to replace them. (check out my previous blog on tombstoning if you are interested in more of my views on kids diving of Plymouth foreshore).
The last statement of the aquatics strategy states that "The Life Centre will help improve Plymouth residents’ quality of life and make Plymouth a more vibrant and attractive place to work and visit." - Will it really? Not everyone wants to travel to Central Park and those residents living close by already experience parking problems during events such as Argyle home games, Concerts and Watchtower conventions. Will the local residents be happier after the life centre is built. If, as promsied by the council, there will be no more loss of green space from the park then where is the extra traffic / parking going to go? We are already told that Plymouth Argyle plan to expand their ground too?
Another fact which is omitted from the Aquatics strategy seems to be the existence of private swimming providers within the city. Has anyone considered the impact the life centre may have on smaller privately run pools such as the New Continental? In the current economic climate smaller clubs and pools may not survive the introduction of the Life Centre yet many swimmers may prefer the small clubs as they may be more friendly and less crowded and offer a more personal service to their members?
Whilst I certainly agree that there is room for improvement with the existing Pool and facilities at the Mayflower centre I think as a city in financial difficulty we simply cannot justify spending 50 million of the Life Centre and where exactly are are the council gong to find the money for such a cast project? Backing from Sport England may sound promising but Sport England have pledged just 1.99 million of the 50 million needed for the project and there are already rumours that the centre will cost nearer 65 million to build and complete. The funding issue seems to have been overlooked by Council Leader Vivien Pengelly especially when she was interviewed by the Herald about the sale of Citybus and the possibility of a referendum said "A referendum would cost at least £150,000 and will not be part of the process. Some people have been opposing our decision to find out the value of Citybus for purely political reasons. Throughout this process there has been scaremongering and misleading information about the potential impact of the sale of Citybus." She said the council was not looking at a potential sale for ideological reasons but because of the current economic climate. "We have a duty to manage all our assets in the best interests of local residents and tax payers, including local bus users," she said. Quote taken from www.thisisplymouth Monday 9th November 2009. Does this statement not imply that Plymouth is having to tighten the purse strings? How we can the council be so desperate to pull money back into the city by selling citybus but then lavishing £50 million on the life centre?
I sincerely hope that the sale of Citybus is not a way to raise the cash needed to build the life centre. It would be a real shame if the council sold of one of its most profitable assets to fund a new business that may not deliver all that it promises.
If you want to learn more about the Plymouth City Council Aquatics strategy then click here but be warned you cannot add comments as that function is disabled, you cannot click on the link to take you to the council website either as the link doesn't work. You can e-mail your comments to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. As you can imagine I will be submitting my comments!