CROYDON IN CRISIS: The disparity in provision of leisure facilities between the north and south of the borough has sent mayoral candidates trying to make a budget splash. By WALTER CRONXITE, Political Editor
The Tory opposition group at the Town Hall, after voting in favour of the Labour-controlled council’s budgets in 2019 and 2020, before the borough went bust, are tonight taking a different tack, aimed at wrong-footing Hamida Ali’s majority group.
Jason Perry, the leader of the Conservative minority group on the council, has put forward a costed and paid-for plan that could see Purley Leisure Centre re-open by the end of 2024, using more than £3million set aside in community funds paid for by developers.
The Tory plan has even been signed-off and approved as viable by Richard Ennis, the recently departed finance director. They claim that the money they would use is not being taken away from any other part of the council budgets and has never been earmarked for other projects.
The move has already sent Val Shawcross, the Labour mayoral candidate, scurrying south to Purley to record a video outlining her own plans for a new Purley pool.
Shawcross, too, wants to use money from the Community Infrastructure Levy, but not, as the Tory amendment proposes, to repair and reopen the pool. Shawcross now suggests using the developers’ money “to fund a feasibility study to kick-start a project to redevelop the existing site and provide a brand-new quality state-of-the-art facility”.
It appears to be a kick-it-into-the-long-grass move by Shawcross, and some way short of definitely reopening the pool or providing a replacement. The pledge that Shawcross made in November, when seeking selection by Labour as the party’s candidate, now generates a 404 page error on her website.
While the Tory make-do-and-mend proposal would still take two years to deliver, Shawcross admits that under her plan it could be up to five years before the south of the borough once again has a swimming pool and public gym facility.
But Shawcross has, at least, looked at Purley Pool as a mayoral election issue. Her Labour Party colleagues who currently run the council, such as council leader Hamida Ali and her cabinet member responsible for sport, Oliver “Shitshow” Lewis, have remained entirely silent on the matter, with no proposal for the venue’s future.
There has been a near-constant “Save Purley Pool Campaign” over the last decade, and two previous attempts by the council to close the facility. But there’s never been any coherent planning from the Town Hall, under Tory or Labour control, to repair or replace the pool.
Purley Leisure Centre has not re-opened since the first covid lockdown in March 2020. Costly repairs required to the 1970s-built building’s air filtration systems have been put forward among the reasons for its continued closure, which has served to highlight the disparity in public sports provision between the north and south of the borough.
Katharine Street sources suggest that the Purley site, attached to a disused supermarket and multistorey car park, is also wanted by the cash-strapped council for potentially lucrative development, something that is impossible with the leisure centre still operating.
Such an asset disposal – much beloved by Perry’s Tory Party colleagues in government – would also be made impossible if the Croydon Conservatives’ amendment gets passed tonight or, it would seem, if Perry wins the mayoral election on May 5.
The Tory amendment is unusual in that it actually provides a costed and apparently viable proposal, rather than the usual yah-boo political point-scoring that is the nature of these Town Hall moves.
Entitled the “Purely [sic] Pool Refurbishment and Modernisation Project”, the Tory amendment calls the swimming pool saga the worst example of the Labour administration’s “sheer pettiness and vindictiveness”, claiming that the council “pursued a policy of running it down”.
They state, “This amendment seeks to bring Purley Pool back to life, return it to its status as a much-loved and needed local facility, to provide again a suitable place for schoolchildren to learn how to swim and to properly respond to the needs of local residents.”
The Tories claim that their plan to use will provide the money for the required mechanical engineering and refurbishment works necessary to bring the leisure centre back to full operational standard, as well as provide funds for the venue’s operation.
They say that the total cost of the project will be £3.195million spread across four years. The annual running costs of £50,000 will also be met from CIL monies.
The council’s rules for using Community Infrastructure Levy money require, “Provision, improvement, replacement, operation, or maintenance of public sports and leisure.”
The Conservatives say, “This clearly provides for the use of CIL to fund this project.”
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period
I fear it’s a white elephant (and I’m a resident of Purley, who could benefit from a pool). There is no point in reopening it if it isn’t maintained. I appreciate it’s a vote winner, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s sustainable in the longer-term.
In economics there is a concept called ‘opportunity cost’. As an example, if you had £10 you could buy £10 worth of apples – but if you did that you would have no money left to buy oranges, apples, or pears. So the cost of spending all that money on apples is not just £10, it has also cost you the opportunity to spend it on something else. So you can’t say buying £10 of apples is money well spent unless you know that people didn’t want any other type of fruit.
So the Conservatives may have worked out that they could spend £3m of CIL money on Purley Pool. But that money could be spent on any other park, greenpace, sports or leisure facility in Croydon. So my question is, what other opportunities are being lost by ploughing all this money into Purley Pool? If Croydon residents were given all of the options, would they choose to spend the money this way? Are the Conservatives sacrificing better ways of spending the money just to keep Purley Pool open for the sake of putting something on their leaflets?
For at least the past seven years I have seen both Labour and the Conservatives claiming that they will be the ones to save Purley Pool. Isn’t it time we got all of the details of what work needs doing, what that will cost, what the alternatives are for Purley, and what the alternatives are for the rest of Croydon? Then we could at least have an honest conversation about whether we can or should save Purley Pool and put an end to this politcal posturing.
“What other opportunities are being lost by ploughing all this money into Purley Pool? If Croydon residents were given all of the options, would they choose to spend the money this way? Are the Conservatives sacrificing better ways of spending the money just to keep Purley Pool open for the sake of putting something on their leaflets?
What the alternatives are for Purley, and what the alternatives are for the rest of Croydon?
Then we could at least have an honest conversation about whether we can or should save Purley Pool and put an end to this political posturing”.
All great questions, and ones that need answering.
A mature political party with aspirations to governance – and mayoralty – would expend the effort and resources to try to answer them, and then incorporate the answers into policies that may see them elected.
And then there’s the Greens.
Long on purity, short on solutions.
I agree with Peter Underwood that we need an honest conversation– certainly, about whether we can or should save the pool, but more important, about WHEN we get a NEW pool.
The starting point should recognise that the current pool is in a site that has languished, largely empty and unproductive, for about 20 years. The old supermarket and car park need to be knocked down and replaced with a really good development which brings people to live, work, and take recreation–with enough parking to allow shoppers to come in to the existing shops of the town centre..
We deperately need a well-planned mixed development– not just town cramming with rabbit hutch or luxury flats. We need a green development with daylight and green roofs– not some covered shopping mall of past models, which would work against re-invigorating the existing shopping streets of Brighton Road and Russell Hill, and that offshoot called the High Street. In fact, we need a new development that includes the High Street in its urban design.
The next point is that we need a 100% commitment from the Council to have a new Purley Pool, located right in the town centre where people from the many communities of Croydon South– can get to it by buses and trains and roads that all home in on Purley. The routes that come along the valleys that meet at Purley Cross- from Coulsdon and Kenley, and down from the hills of Sanderstead, Riddlesdown and Old Coulsdon.
It seems to me that there are two places for the Pool–ideally, close to where it is, but in a much better building. The problem with the current building is that it does next to nothing for the High Street–it has a long, blank frontage with no visual connection (and which generates no activity in) this boring street.
BUT—- Well-positioned in a new development, a new pool and gym with a sports hall (I am told by someone who knows about such things that the latter a key generator of money for profitable Leisure Centres) would actually add to the vitality of the Town Centre.
The other obvious one is the Tesco Car Park, a place that will come up for grabs in the coming decade. There is a good amount of space there for a shiny new big Leisure Centre. Just a wee problem. The Council don’t own it. Once upon a time, in the dim and distant days of Britain before Mrs T sold the family silver, it used to belong to us- it was the Purley Water works. But money talks.
So– an informed debate– informed by real costings , not fag packet stuff, and a real vision as to how to incorporate a modern pool and Leisure centre. Would it not be possible to do the unthinkable joined-up thinking — keep the current pool going on its site, and build a new one nearby, as part of the design masterplan–and then, hey presto!– open up the new one and shut the old one the very same day !
Maybe even have an opening ceremony where a crocodile of pool users –children, OAP’s etc etc etc, have a final swim in the old one, then get out, walk in their dressing gowns to the new one, and –after a ribbon cutting ceremony comprising the new Mayor of Coulsdon, the MP for Croydon Suth, and selected dignitaroes– have a mass dive-in to open the beautiful new pool. Celebratory tee-shirts “I Love the new Purley pool” — all round.
If that is not a visionary Mayoral-election-winning pledge, I despair.
So–who is doing a “Design masterplan” for the current Pool and Supermarket site?
When will it be open to pubic debate ?
I wanna know.
“The other obvious one is the Tesco Car Park, a place that will come up for grabs in the coming decade.”
There’s a rumour that Wates or one of the other volume boys might have already got first dibs on it.
Mr Lewis White. Thank you an very sensible and it removes the uncertainty of builders and some builders wayward promises. I would be delighted to assist cutting the tape if I get elected Mayor.
As a graduate Mechanical engineer there should be no reason for not adding some very large surface area Hepa filters making a cleaner air including from fossil fuel burning too. For covid that I would say would be battling yesterdays war.
Retiling grouting etc would also be an ideal training site for many apprenticeships which would generate skilled jobs for uk kids.
Also I heard that many expensive managerial staffs costs were allocated excessively rather than spread about the borough according to turnover. why? what was the amount?
After personally doing a mini tour of the boroughs pool sports centre’s,) I have not viewed Purley ever) I am struck by the one off the Portland road in Woodside , the leaders ward , there having the walkways that are not walked on pressure washed as well as the walls (again rarely soiled by footprints) whilst I swam there was a thick layer of oil and scum around the edges of the waters tiles. According to two regular users it had been like that for weeks. I expect the problem is also across the borough as the easily visible cleaning are done to take up the time on shift and avoiding the harder effort jobs.
Better hygiene of the water and surfaces used by the users is most important. A purer, fresher and more inviting attracts more users as they look at the scum 40 cm away after every length.
Question so when will the tiles around the waters edge be cleaned by? Friday9pm.
This is another sign of poor or no Council Contract enforcement acting again , even in the leaders ward. Do they care?
Enough is enough!
And this is someone who wants to be the first executive Mayor of Croydon.