Pulling the plug on Leith Waterworld

Bosses of Edinburgh Leisure have confirmed that they plan to close Leith Waterworld on 8th January. The Leith Waterworld site is being sold off as part of the £37 million redevelopment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP). The decision was first made in 2005, when the decision was made on the Meadowbank and Commonwealth Pool upgrade. City councillors have agreed to use some proceeds from the sale of the facility, to fund “child-friendly” improvements at Leith Victoria Swim Centre. But this is dependent on the sale generating more than the £1m that is was estimated as being worth in 2009. As these discussions had taken place a few years ago, the decision to close the pool within a month has come as a complete surprise

A campaign has been launched to save Leith Waterworld. Public meetings have started to take place, and a signatures are being collected to save the city’s only pool with flumes and wave machines. Campaigners have converted a children’s bike trailer to create a mobile cart, the Swimming Utility Battlebus (SUB), that can be seen drumming up support around Leith. A record of the public meeting show that the facility is greatly valued by people from around Edinburgh, especially by families, teenagers, and people with disabilities. It is clear that the Waterworld is popular and much-loved facility. The Splashback campaign is collecting stories about the times they have spent in Leith Waterworld, so please share you story.

As Kevin Williamson, Bella Caledonia has, pointed out, “The justification given – that the Commonwealth Pool will be a viable alternative when it re-opens next year – simply defies belief. The Commie pool is miles away from Leith.  Parents and kids need a facility they can get to easily.  If Leith Waterworld closes many folk may no longer go swimming.” Closing the facility is then likely to put pressure on the Victoria Baths, and have a detrimental affect on the swimmers who use it.

Campaigners are asking for the petition to be signed as asking people to lobby their councillors. But perhaps the experience of the 2001 campaign to save Govanhill Pools, is worth learning from. The closure of Govanhill Pool most severely effected the old, the poor, the sick and disabled, the unemployed and ethnic minorities. 100’s of people were actively involved in this lively campaign. There were large 24 hour pickets outside the pool by young and old, and of people from different ethnic backgrounds. Council meetings were disrupted, the council leader was egged, and there were street parties. There was also an occupation of the pool that lasted one-hundred and forty-one days before being evisted by the police. A decade later, the community has not given up, and there is still an active campaign to redevelopment and reopen Govanhill Baths. Interestingly, as the campaign group lost faith in local representatives in the Council, it became, and continues to be, a fight for local democracy, and a coming together of the community to organise ‘for themselves using their own expertise, intellect and creativity’.