Wokingham Borough Council has no choice but to permanently close the pool at Bulmershe Leisure Centre, with immediate effect, ahead of the centre’s total closure on 27 April to be demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art facility.
The suspended ceiling tiles above the pool are moisture-damaged, and in danger of falling, and the borough council’s new demolition survey into the centre building has discovered asbestos in the void above them.
Existing plans to relocate swim groups and pool users to Carnival Pool and Loddon Valley Leisure Centre when Bulmershe closed will be accelerated. Only the pool has been closed. The rest of the centre and its dry changing rooms are unaffected.
The centre was constructed in the 1970s and most buildings of this age contain asbestos. Closing the pool is a precaution. If the tiles fall, the asbestos above could be released. There has been no risk to swimmers until now, and it must be stressed there is no risk to users in the rest of the centre. The borough council has considered replacing the pool ceiling for the last few weeks remaining, but the cost and work involved in this simply aren’t viable.
“We know that closing the pool will disappoint swimming groups and families, but we simply aren’t prepared to take the risk with the ceiling,” said Cllr Norman Jorgensen, executive member for environment, sports, environmental health, leisure and libraries. “We were already planning to relocate these groups when the centre closed for good, so are doing all we can to speed up those arrangements, and ask people to bear with us.
“This discovery about the pool ceiling only vindicates our decision to invest in a new leisure centre. It has served Woodley well for the past 50 years, but the community deserves and needs a modern centre with modern facilities.”
The planning application for the new £14.54million leisure centre is due to be submitted at the end of March. Soft demolition is due to begin in May, stripping fixtures and fittings, with the building itself taken down during the summer holidays to avoid disrupting the neighbouring school sites.
Subject to planning permission, it would include a six-lane 25m swimming pool and teaching pool, with movable floors for a larger number of groups of ages and abilities to use, a bigger gym, a four-court sports hall, an additional studio, and a café. It all goes to plan, it will open towards the end of 2020.
The centre is currently being run by 1Life on behalf of the borough council. The new centre will be run by the council’s new provider Places for People Leisure.