Stay of execution for Waterworld as £1m appeal starts

Splashback members Chris Askham, Fiona Clandillon and Johnny Gailey

Splashback members Chris Askham, Fiona Clandillon and Johnny Gailey

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A FUNDRAISING campaign is to get under way to raise enough money to reopen Leith Waterworld – after the sale of the building was postponed to see if a community rescue plan can succeed.

The pool was closed down by operator Edinburgh Leisure last month, following a city council decision in 2005 to sell it and use the money to help fund the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Next Wednesday had been set as the closing date for any companies interested in taking over the site to submit bids, with supermarket operators thought to be among those wanting to snap it up.

But councillors have now agreed to extend that deadline by six months in order to see if a viable business case can be brought forward by a new community bid – under the banner of “Leith Springboard” – to run the facility as a leisure venue.

It is expected that at least £1 million would have to be raised to buy the building, while the group would also need to find a way of avoiding the annual losses that Edinburgh Leisure suffered from operating the pool.

Before any fundraising campaign gets under way, members of the community bid are to be given access to the financial figures showing the operating costs Edinburgh Leisure faced when it managed the venue.

Johnny Gailey, a father-of-two who was a member of the campaign group Splashback, which fought against the closure of the pool, said: “The first stage is looking at the operating costs and that is crucial. You do not bid for a facility without a business case.

“I do not have £1m in my back pocket and none of the other campaigners do either. When we get access to operating costs we can look at what needs to happen to make this viable and we will then have a business case to fundraise on.

“It could be public funding, lottery funding, community regeneration grants or private donors, but we are not at the stage of making a bid, we are looking at the business case.”

Mr Gailey and some other members of the Splashback campaign are likely to form part of the new Springboard bid, but he said other members of the community are likely to want to get involved as well.

He said: “We got 6500 people that signed the petition, we’ve all been working with commitment to save Leith Waterworld and we won’t just step back, we will continue that.

“There are members within and outwith our group that we would want to help.”

The decision to extend the closing date by six months followed a motion by Green councillor Steve Burgess that won the support of Liberal Democrat, SNP and Labour councillors at a meeting of the full council yesterday.

Leith Lib Dem councillor Marjorie Thomas said: “It will give them a chance to look at the enormity of the situation and if they can come up with something viable, then that’s all to the good.”

Cllr Steve Cardownie, leader of the SNP group on the council, said: “There were design problems from the outset so it will be difficult, but I do not think that if there are people wanting to do something with the pool that we should stand in their way.”

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