Group in fresh hope for Leith Waterworld reopening

CAMPAIGNERS battling to reopen Leith Waterworld have spoken of their optimism after submitting a detailed report on the case for saving the pool to the council.

The pool, which ran up a loss of £340,000 in its last year of operation, was closed in January last year despite efforts by the Splashback group to save the local amenity.

An initial plan to reopen the pool submitted by Splashback late last year was rejected after the council said it could not afford the suggested subsidy of £743,842 over the next three years. However, the group was given until the end of the month to revise their figures and produce a more detailed report.

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Campaigner Johnny Gailey said: “We have managed to test lots of our earlier assumptions using figures from other similar pools and by seeking expert advice. We feel we have now shown that the site is capable of increased commercial 
viability, through a combination of factors such as increasing opening hours, the creation of new revenue streams within the complex, classes targeting specific groups, and changes to the staffing structure.”

Also suggested is the creation of a three-tier soft play area and the inclusion of a party or event room for hire, along with a cafe, all of which could be opened to the public every day.

The campaigners believe these moves will help reduce the subsidy required from the council to keep the pool open from £192,572 in its first year of reopening, £75,953 in the second and £19,829 in its third, adding up to £455,488 less than the previous figure of £743,842. The group also claims that reopening the pool could bring approximately 60 new jobs to the Leith area.

However, the Evening News understands that a private firm has contacted Edinburgh City Council to express an interest in buying the site, but has not made any formal bid.

Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, said: “Edinburgh needs Waterworld to reopen and thanks to the work of Splashback and council officers, we have a credible business case for the pool.”

Funds from the sale of Leith Waterworld were factored in when the decision was made to refurbish the Commonwealth Pool and city leaders are under pressure to recoup at least some of the costs.

Right lengths

According to research by charity Save the Children, roughly 16,000 children in Edinburgh cannot swim by the time they leave primary school, while research by Scottish Swimming suggests that children from more deprived areas are more likely to be unable to swim.

Leith was recently identified as a deprived area by both the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, and the Greener Leith campaign.

Waterworld campaigner Johnny Gailey said: “We believe appropriate local facilities are the right way to tackle this problem, not costly interventions. Some may scoff at the idea of Leith Waterworld teaching people to swim, but there are seven stages to the learning process and the first three are about learning to become comfortable and confident in the water.”