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Portishead Open Air Pool was saved from closure in 2009 by the efforts of the local community. North Somerset Council (NSC) Executive, who were responsible for operating the pool (opened originally in 1962) had decided, on the basis of a report in 2008 by three remote (i.e. having no electorate anywhere near Portishead) councillors, to close the pool. The main conclusion from the report was that, whilst the pool was “effectively operated”, there were insufficient visitors to keep it financially viable. The local community disagreed and wondered indeed if the councillors had written their report about some other amenity because there seemed to be little relationship between the report and our pool! Regarding effectiveness, the facts were that the pool had been allowed to be run down, it was not heated properly (the contracted MINIMUM of the specified range was only reached on one day in the whole 2008 season! – was this intentional?), opening times were not suitable for working people and the kids’ paddling pool had been boarded over, which of course pretty well ruled out families. It was no surprise to local people that visitor numbers were down! The community felt that NSC had let it down due to systematic neglect of the pool over several years and that the pool was anything but “effectively operated”.

After much campaigning and media pressure (much support from the Bristol Evening Post) and the setting up of a trust, we were allowed a very short site visit to assess the facilities at the end of December 2008. A plan was put together and eventually, after more campaigning by the community to save it (and by the NSC Executive to close it), the trust was grudgingly given a one-year lease. In May 2009 we were assisted by Ty Pennington, a US TV star, in a makeover of the pool, during which much essential work was carried out, not least the elimination of shocking water leaks, the opening up of the kids’ pool and a determination to operate the pool at good temperatures and at times to suit swimmers. The pool opened on plan towards the end of May 2009. The number of visitors in 2009 was some four times the number in 2008 – it is wonderful what a difference thinking of the customer makes! 2010 has built on 2009’s success and we now have a 99-year lease. Please help us to keep it going by coming to swim and/or by volunteering your help!

(Please note that the above notes are the personal opinions of William Hunter based on the NSC Review Report and Scrutiny Panel Report, NSC Council and Executive meetings, the NSC contract with contractors for operating the pool and pool temperatures from freedom of information searches, regular personal attendance and observations at the pool when visiting for (cold) swims, press reports and quotes, and so on. Basically the data tell the story.)

 

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