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Oxford City Council

PO Box 10, Oxford, OX1 1EN
Tel 01865 249811
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Leisure and Parks

Consultation on Leisure Facilities

Blackbird Leys Pool designs

Proposed New Competition Standard Pool

Temple Cowley Pools and Blackbird Leys Pool are towards the end of their operational lives. In comparison to modern facilities both sites are poor quality, have high operating costs and large carbon footprints.

Based on 2009/10 figures Temple Cowley Pools has the highest carbon foot print of all of the Council owned Leisure Centres in Oxford at 866 tonnes of CO2. One tonne of CO2 weighs as much as 10 baby elephants and would fill a swimming pool 10m wide, 25m long and 2m deep.

A feasibility study was undertaken in August that carefully looked at the following options;

  • Option 1 - Review of the current backlog maintenance budget and refurbishment of the existing building for compliance against today's standards at Temple Cowley Pools
  • Option 2 - Demolish & re-build Existing Temple Cowley Pools (TCP)
  • Option 3 - New build - wet side extension to Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre (BLLC)

The feasibility study can be downloaded below (please note it may take a while to load as it is a large document):

PDF icon Competition Standard Pool Facilities Appraisal and Options Report (80MB PDF)

The following decisions were then approved at the City Executive Board on the 1st September 2010.

1. Reflecting the Leisure Facilities Strategy which seeks to retain swimming provision to the south of the City, the City Executive Board confirms that the preferred option to achieve this is to develop a new pool which meets the needs of the city for a competition standard pool and has wider appeal for casual swimming and play adjoining the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre as shown in option three (c) of the feasibility study.

2. The City Executive Board approves the tender for the works on this basis with a report back to CEB once tenders have been received and the availability of funding in the Medium Term Financial Strategy is clearer following the Comprehensive Spending Review and Formula Grant settlement.

3. That work is continued to ensure Temple Cowley residents retain good access to leisure facilities.

The following decisions were approved at the City Executive Board on the 21 July 2011:

1. That the City Executive Board approves the construction of the competition standard swimming pool that will be adjoined to Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre.

2. That delegated authority is awarded to the Executive Director of City Services in consultation with the Head of Law and Governance to award the construction contract to Willmott Dixon.

3. To delegate authority to the Executive Director of City Services to amend the contract with Fusion Lifestyle to include the management of the new competition standard pool, subject to the agreement of satisfactory terms.

Proposed Pool Plans

Drawings of the outline designs for the new facility can be found below:

Competition Standard Pool Designs (4.5MB PPT)
PDF icon Proposed Pool Designs 1 (kB PDF)
PDF icon Proposed Pool Designs 2 (kB PDF)

Consultation Overview

A great deal of public consultation has taken place in relation to the proposals for the competition standard pool. This consultation has been carried out in line with Oxford City Council's strategy and the following four primary methods have been used:

  • A city wide survey;
  • Public open sessions;
  • Focus groups; and
  • Design boards and comment cards.

An overview of the consultation to date and minutes of various other meetings is available below:

PDF icon Competition Standard Pool Consultation Overview (53kB PDF)
PDF icon Questions and Answers from City Executive Board on 21 July 2011 (136kB PDF)
Presentation from City Executive Board on 21 July 2011 (6.7MB PPT)
PDF icon Questions and Answers from City Executive Board on 22 June 2011 (147kB PDF)
PDF icon Competition Standard Pool Designs - You Said We Did (9.6MB PDF)
PDF icon Lesiure Feasibility Study Meeting Notes - 17 August 2010 (58k B PDF)
PDF icon Leisure Consultation Meeting Minutes - 25 August 2010 (135kB PDF)

Planning Permission

Planning permission for the proposed new competition standard pool was approved at the Council's Planning Review Committee on 2 June 2011.

Appointment of lead building contractor to build competition standard pool at Blackbird Leys

The report and appendices below explain the tender and evaluation process that the Council has completed to appoint a lead contractor who will manage the construction of the new competition pool if this is approved to proceed:

PDF icon Competition Pool Tender Evaluation Report (67kB PDF)
PDF icon Competition Pool Tender Appendix 1 Combined Tender Evaluation (14kB PDF)
PDF icon Competition Pool Tender Appendix 2 Site Visit (23kB PDF)
PDF icon Competition Pool Tender Appendix 3 Risk Register (46kB PDF)

Questions and Answers

The public have been asking a number of questions regarding the proposed new pool at Blackbird Leys and the potential closure of Temple Cowley Pools. Please find the questions asked and answers provided shown below.

PDF icon Response to Save TCP Website Questions (45kB PDF)
PDF icon Competition Standard Pool Consultation Issues Rasied - June 2010 (80kB PDF)

Has a final decision been taken?

The following decisions were approved at the City Executive Board on the 1st September 2010.

1. Reflecting the Leisure Facilities Strategy which seeks to retain swimming provision to the south of the City, the City Executive Board confirms that the preferred option to achieve this is to develop a new pool which meets the needs of the city for a competition standard pool and has wider appeal for casual swimming and play adjoining the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre as shown in option three (c) of the feasibility study.

2. The City Executive Board approves the tender for the works on this basis with a report back to CEB once tenders have been received and the availability of funding in the Medium Term Financial Strategy is clearer following the Comprehensive Spending Review and Formula Grant settlement.

3. That work is continued to ensure Temple Cowley residents retain good access to leisure facilities.

The following decisions were approved at the City Executive Board on the 21 July 2011:

1. That the City Executive Board approves the construction of the competition standard swimming pool that will be adjoined to Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre.

2. That delegated authority is awarded to the Executive Director of City Services in consultation with the Head of Law and Governance to award the construction contract to Willmott Dixon.

3. To delegate authority to the Executive Director of City Services to amend the contract with Fusion Lifestyle to include the management of the new competition standard pool, subject to the agreement of satisfactory terms.

How much is Temple Cowley pool costing?

In 2008/09 Temple Cowley Pools cost the Council £540,000 to remain open.

Does Temple Cowley use more energy than other similar facilities?
Yes, this is due to a combination of the age (originally dates back to the 1930s) and the poor design by modern standards. In 2008/09 the total CO2 emissions from the facility were 973t CO2, contributing to approximately 10% of the Council's total core carbon footprint. If on balance the option to build a new swimming pool is found to be the most advantageous then there is an opportunity to introduce robust energy efficiency design features.

The Council's core carbon footprint is made up of CO2 emissions from; core buildings, fleet/transport emissions and waste to landfill emissions (NB waste generated by the council from its own operations itself not municipal waste)

Will the full environmental impact of the chosen option be evaluated?

The council is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.  As such every effort will be made to factor in all environmental aspects to the full business case.

Do the swimming club want a new facility at Blackbird Leys and are they expecting a diving pit at the new facility?

Leisure officers meet the Chair and Vice Chair of the club on a regular basis to ensure effective communication and they are fully behind the new facility at Blackbird Leys and are not expecting a diving pit as part of the project.

Do the City Council own the land that TCPs is built on? 

Yes, the council have a freehold for the land.

Is the competition standard pool is only for competitive swimmers?

No. The facility will meet standards necessary for county level competition but will be a facility that maximises usage from all members of the community.

Is there a planning policy that gives protection to existing indoor sports facilities?

If the option of a new replacement facility at Blackbird Leys was progressed then this would be within the policy guidance (subject to the necessary planning process). The new facility at Blackbird Leys will be high quality, with a good facility mix that will ensure a wide catchment as per Sport England models. Fusion Lifestyle strongly believes that the new facility will attract between 375,000 - 400,000 visits per annum and this is inclusive of the Temple Cowley Pools catchment. We believe that the majority of users will be able to access the new facility as there is very good accessibility with the distance being only 1.6 miles between the facilities. Blackbird Leys has one of the most frequent bus services within the City with the number 1 and number 5 buses running typically every 5-10 minutes from the City and back. The distance between the two facilities is within acceptable cycling distance. This journey would typically take approximately 10 minutes, with cycle lanes available for approximately 70% of the route.

How does Oxford compare to other local authorities in relation to the number of leisure centres?

The city has twice the national average of pool water space and our leisure operator Fusion Lifestyle believe we have one of the most facilities per population in the whole of England.  The problem with this is that you cannot guarantee the user numbers necessary to run the facilities cost effectively. Both TCP and BLP are poorly designed and are now in poor condition, as such they are increasingly energy inefficient and very expensive to run.

This has led to declining usage.  Whilst the gym at TCP has slowed the decline in usage, it has still fallen by over 40,000 visits over the past five years.  Ferry Sports centre receives in excess of 100,000 more visits than Temple Cowley.

If Temple Cowley closes would the monies invested in the gym not be wasted?

No. Gyms are the only profitable areas of leisure centres. As such the new gym at Temple Cowley has already covered its costs and enabled an improved quality experience for centre users. Dependant upon usage, gym equipment tends to be replaced every five years and as such by 2013 the equipment at Temple Cowley will be at the end of its lifespan.

How do you know what the community wants?

There are clearly differing views within the community in respect to the consultation that has been undertaken.  These currently seem to fall into people wanting:  a smaller facility on the same site, TCP to be kept going at any cost, a new build on the same site, a new competition standard pool adjoined to Blackbird Leys leisure centre, a pool that also has fun slides and closing both pools without a replacement. 

Why is more consultation not being conducted?

The Council feels that there has been a significant level of consultation. Please see the consultation overview section above for further details.

Are the council committed to having a competition pool?

While we are living in challenging financial times the City Council are committed to finding a way to retain a sustainable competition standard pool. Such a pool offers the potential for all levels of swimming and is able to maximise the number of people participating at all levels in swimming.

Is there a condition survey for TCP?

PDF icon Temple Cowley Pools Condition Survey 2012 (PDF)
PDF icon Temple Cowley Pools Condition Survey 2008 (PDF)
PDF icon Temple Cowley Pools Condition Survey 2008 - Supporting Text (PDF)

The major issues are the failing roof which is leaking and the supports are beginning to fail, the poolside concrete is eroded which has led to a scaffold being erected, the diving pit has now been closed since 2002, the pit is 3.8 meters deep and as such affects the facilities structural integrity.  Our pre tender estimates to complete the maintenance works are circa £2.3M, most of which will not make a noticeable difference to centre users. 

The climate within the facility is very aggressive, a condition which is exacerbated due to the poor building design which leads to increased levels of chlorine and humidity within the environment.  Although a major part of the air handling unit was replaced just two years ago, it is already showing significant signs of corrosion.  This will continue to deteriorate and affect the quality of ventilation in the building.

The old plant and poor design of the facility mean that the facility cannot maintain the required temperature within the swimming pools. Customer expectations are for warmer temperatures than compared to when the facility was designed.  Whenever the outdoor temperature drops the pool plant is unable to cope and as such the temperate drops below its operating temperature range of between 28-30 degrees.  This is not acceptable to the majority of customers and means the centre has to cancel swimming lessons due to the temperature not being able to be raised above 24 degrees.

The facility itself is also not accessible to those with disabilities; for example there is no lift to the first floor.

Why are we spending council monies on further consultants? fees?

It is essential to conduct a full consultation exercise and explore the viability of potential designs prior to making a major capital commitment to the agreed scheme.  This expenditure has payment milestones attached to enable the council to stop the works at various stages as appropriate

If the Blackbird Leys option was progressed how would it be financed?

A mix of prudential borrowing developer contributions and external funding. The prudential borrowing element would be financed through the revenue saving of closing TCP and increased income from users of the new facility. The construction of the new pool with an existing sports facility makes strong financial sense.

If a new facility was developed on the Temple Cowley site how long would it be closed for to enable the works to be undertaken?

If the best all round option is to re-build the facility at Temple Cowley this would lead to an approximate 18 month closure.

How much would a new facility on the Temple Cowley Site cost?

Within the facilities appraisal and options report it highlights this as approximately £12.5 million. This is significantly more than the Blackbird Leys option.

How much would a new combined ice rink with a leisure facility cost?

Build costs would be between £21M to £25M, additional costs are likely to be the required land.  A thorough land search was completed in 2008/9 which looked at an options appraisal of eight potential sites which did not identify any suitable council owned land, as such the purchase of such land would be a significant additional cost on the project.  As such there is currently no way for the council to finance this option.  The ice rink is operating well and Fusion have plans to make further improvements to the facility.

How difficult to get to is Blackbird Leys?

BLLC to Temple Cowley is 1.6 miles (six minutes by car), there are also dedicated regular bus services that go directly along the route within the TCP catchment area (Cowley Road) and avoid the ring road going directly to the site at BLLC via Cowley Centre. These are Oxford Bus Company's City number five and Stagecoach number one. These run typically every 5-10 minutes. Oxford City Council will work with transport agencies to further improve the already good accessibility.

How will the new pool cope with free swim users from Cowley and Blackbird Leys?

Total usage at both Temple Cowley Pools and Blackbird Leys Pool is significantly under capacity. A new facility will be able to accommodate users of both facilities.

Transportation to the new pool will not be green as users will have to take buses or cars instead of going by bike or walk to the facility as they do now. How would you respond to this?

Temple Cowley Pools is a city wide facility and users do travel from across the City to use it by a variety of means. There are approximately 6,500 people living within a 10 minute walking distance of TCP; however Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre has approximately 10,000 within a 10 minute walking distance. Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre is approximately 1.6 miles distance from Temple Cowley Pools which is also within satisfactory cycling distance.

Why can the new pool not be built in Cowley? For example in the old Lord Nuffield Club Building or in the old Post Office building?

The Council does not own either site, which would mean an additional significant cost to purchase the land. This would mean that it is likely that the cost would be un-affordable to the Council. Both sites would also have access issues dealing with additional transport.

Why are you taking a facility away from an already deprived and disadvantaged area where the community will suffer from this decision?

Blackbird Leys and Cowley both have areas of deprivation. Blackbird Leys is approximately 1.6miles from Temple Cowley Pools. The community within Temple Cowley and the city as a whole will be encouraged to use any new facility.

Have you considered partnerships with stakeholders in order to keep TCP?

We have been speaking to key stakeholders such as the County Council, Primary Care Trust, Amateur Swimming Association, Oxfordshire Sports Partnership, Sport England, Fusion Lifestyle and School Sports Partnership over the last 18 months. These key stakeholders are supportive of providing a value for money, sustainable facility with a lower carbon footprint at Blackbird Leys.  We are also working closely with schools sites to further open their facilities to community use improving the leisure opportunities available in the city

What will you do to help local schools carry out their swimming lessons?

Currently there are three schools using Temple Cowley Pools and nine schools using Blackbird Leys Pool. Most schools within the City need to travel a short distance for swimming. The Council will work with the School Sports Partnership and the schools affected in respect of any issues that they may have.

What will happen to the land that TCP is on now?

No decision has been taken at this point on the land.

How can closing a leisure centre be justified when the council commits to creating healthier lifestyles, wellbeing and equality for the community?

A new facility would provide a value for money, sustainable and accessible offering for the City, which the current facilities at TCP and BLP do not provide. This will enable more people to access a good quality multi-sports facility. An increase in participation will lead to improvements in the agendas listed above.

Will there be a new dry sports facility at Cowley to replace the gym at TCP?

The Council are monitoring the situation at the Lord Nuffield site and would strongly encourage any organisation looking at purchasing the site to maintain some dry sports facility provision. A new gym called 'Feel Fit' has also opened in Templars Square. 

Will there be a steam and sauna area at the new pool like there is now at TCP?

Within the consultation a sauna was strongly requested and this has been added to the plans for the proposed pool.

Is Didcot getting a 50 metre swimming pool?

Discussions with South and Vale District Council has indicated that there are no firm plans for a 50 metre pool in Didcot at this stage.

Page last updated 3 June 2014


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