Experts sought to help reopen Leith Waterworld

Campaigners originally wanted to keep Leith Water World open, but the council chose to shut it down
Campaigners originally wanted to keep Leith Water World open, but the council chose to shut it down
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CAMPAIGNERS behind attempts to reopen Leith Waterworld have launched an appeal for skilled professionals to get involved with the new project, after city leaders took the dramatic decision to back the community bid.

Time to wade

Splashback, which was set up to save the axed flume pool, has now been given the green light to pursue a relaunch. Edinburgh City Council will release £100,000 in funds and provide sports officials to support work on the plan.

Officials had published a highly-critical report of the proposals – which would see the community run the facility – but councillors went against them during a crunch meeting at the City Chambers yesterday.

Campaigners now have until December to work on a revised business case. As part of the move they are appealing for city residents with expertise in governance, finance, fundraising and pool engineering to dedicate time to help relaunch the pool in 2014. They also intend to pursue funding from the Big Lottery.

Splashback’s Jonathan Gailey said: “We’re clearly very chuffed at this decision. From the start, we recognised the social value of Leith Waterworld to children and families, those with disabilities and vulnerable people, but the council saw this purely in terms of cost.

“What is really gratifying is that, 14 months down the line, after all this hard work, no-one is questioning the social value that Waterworld has to Leith and Edinburgh more broadly.”

The Splashback bid is based around longer opening hours and new facilities, including a soft play area, reducing the subsidy needed to run the venue from £340,000 a year to just under £20,000 a year after three years.

The Labour-SNP administration, led by council leader Andrew Burns, had previously been opposed to the scheme but in September gave campaigners extra time to mount a new business case.

Mr Gailey added: “Now whenever we sit down with the council we all have the same shared goal and we are all committed to that, which is how to reopen the pool.

“This next stage is focusing on delivery and that will involve additional help, people with experience in governance, social enterprise, fundraising, and pool operation. It will also mean applying for Big Lottery funding, which the council is not eligible for but we as a community group are.”

Splashback said the cost of reopening the pool is between £87,000 and £155,000, but it will attempt to raise around £400,000 to install a cafe, soft play area and new entrance to boost its appeal.

Leith Waterworld had been run as a loss-making business since opening in May 1992 on the site of the former Leith Central Station. The decision to close and sell the pool was taken in 2005. Splashback campaigned vigorously to keep the pool open, but it shut in January 2012. Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and leisure leader, said despite the decision there is a great deal of work to deliver the project. He said: “I want to acknowledge the considerable time and effort that Splashback have committed to their bid thus far.

“While there remains a tremendous amount of work to be done in the months ahead, we want to give the community the best possible chance of success by providing the necessary funding and support toward taking their proposals to the next phase.

“We owe it to the people of Edinburgh to do everything we can to preserve this valuable community asset.”