Council agrees £5.5million investment for new Southwell swimming facility

Posted on: Wednesday, December 20, 2023

At a meeting of its Cabinet on 19 December 2023, Newark and Sherwood District Council agreed to allocate £5.5million to develop a new swimming facility at Southwell leisure centre.

The main pool at the centre was closed on 30 October 2023 to investigate the cause of water leaking from the main pool. During the first two weeks of closure, the pool lost 114,500 litres of water.

Pool experts were commissioned to undertake a range of investigations into the cause and extent of the water leakage and a number of options were drawn up.  The estimated cost of repairing the pool, which would involve relining the pool and providing new pipework infrastructure underneath the pool, was £645,000. The repairs would take approximately one year.

The Cabinet decided that rather than spending £645,000 on a repair, which would fix the water leak but leave the pool located within a 60-year-old building and at risk of requiring further repairs, it would be better value for money to develop a new swimming facility.  

What are the next steps?

The Council doesn’t own Southwell Leisure Centre or any of the land surrounding it. The leisure centre is owned by a charity, Southwell Leisure Centre Trust so the District Council will need to work with the Trust, Southwell Town Council and other landowners to develop the new facility.

Where will the new swimming facility go, how big will it be, what will it look like?

Ideally, the District Council would like to develop the new pool facility on land adjacent to the current leisure centre in the area near to the sports hall. Our ambition is to create the new pool facility as the first step towards a completely new leisure centre and in such a way that the “dry side” activities can continue to operate whilst we are building the new swimming facility. We hope to get ‘in principle’ agreement from the relevant landowners early in the New Year and can then begin to commission drawings, designs and different options.

We want to work with Southwell Town Council, Southwell Leisure Centre Trust, other partners and the wider general public on this to create a fantastic new community facility, fit for generations to come. While it’s too early to talk about detailed designs, we’ll be focused on creating something that is sustainable both in terms of its lifespan and from an environmental perspective, using modern construction methods and minimising water and energy consumption to reduce operating costs.

How long will all this take?

The top priority is to get a replacement for the main swimming pool designed and built. Our target is to achieve this within two years, so we need to sort out the land quickly. We know that speed is important for people, but this also needs to be done properly and in such a way that the local community can get involved and influence things.

Where can people who live around Southwell swim in the meantime?

In a bid to accommodate swimmers from Southwell, Active4Today have reprogrammed their pools at Newark and Ollerton to make additional sessions available during peak times. The pool at Newark will be opened from 6am from 8 January 2024, which will increase morning swimming capacity by an additional 240 places (in sessions between 6am and 9:15am).

Also from 8 January, two additional sessions have been added to the Dukeries pool (Ollerton) on Monday’s and Wednesday’s mornings, meaning swimming will be provided until 9am on these days. This will provide a further 50 spaces. Additional sessions can be added if demand requires it.

For the most up to date information and to book your space at these pools, please download the Active4Today app from the android or Apple app stores, or visit the Active4Today website.

I’ve heard that the new skateboard park being built will have to be dug up?

This is just a daft rumour and it’s not true. We’re aware of the plans and the work taking place to improve the current facility and why would we want to do anything other than support this?

How has the building been allowed able to get in this condition?

The sad reality is that hundreds of swimming pools have shut across the country, and more are projected to close before the end of this decade. There are a number of reasons for this. The increase in energy costs has hit swimming pools hard; some pools never recovered from closure after the pandemic and some pools, like Southwell, were built in the 1960s and 1970s and have reached the end of their life.

Newark and Sherwood District Council took over the running of Southwell Leisure Centre in 2021. This was because the Charity that owns the building, Southwell Leisure Centre Trust, could not afford to keep it open. Contrary to some of the misinformation that has been circulated, the Council doesn’t have to repair or replace the swimming pool – it could hand it back to the Trust. Right now, given all the other financial challenges facing the Council, investing £5.5million is a huge undertaking. But the Council is committed to doing this because it values local swimming and supports local community facilities more generally.

Right now, the District Council is undertaking £750,000 of works to the interior of the leisure centre. These are repair and maintenance items that should have been done before and which the Council is now picking up. This is another indication of the Council’s commitment to the leisure centre and to the wider community of Southwell.

Where can I find out more?

We’ve set up an FAQ page to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the project. We’ll be updating it regularly as we have more questions come in so, please keep checking this page for updates: