The Petition of the users of Walsall Gala Baths,
Declares that the petitioners do not wish to see the closure of the Walsall Gala Baths as they believe that it is important to have swimming facilities in the town centre. Especially and in particular, we do not wish to lose the only BRINE pool that is centrally located, well used and much appreciated for its medical benefits to many of its users.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to encourage Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council to consider the objections of the local residents.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Valerie Vaz, Official Report, 13 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 594.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport:
The Government acknowledge the contribution of Walsall Gala Baths to the provision of swimming facilities in the town centre. The Government understand there is a very good level of swimming pool provision within Walsall Borough with 17 pools on 14 sites. The amount of water space in the Borough is well above the national and regional averages.
Sport England is aware of the challenges facing local authorities in the current economic climate. Sport England is supporting over 80 local authorities to develop a strategic approach to facility provision. This includes Walsall, where they provided ongoing advice and support to Walsall Borough Council. Use of Sport England’s strategic planning tools enabled the Council to complete an evidence-based review of leisure provision in the Borough, in order to identify what provision is required, how it can be delivered and the need for additional investment.
By rationalising their swimming pools, local authorities can often deliver cost savings through the replacement of older facilities with modern, efficient, fit for purpose facilities which can run at no or greatly reduced subsidy and still drive higher levels of participation. In April this year, Sport England announced nearly £5 million of lottery investment to upgrade pool changing provision at 19 pools around England through the Improvement Fund. It is also managing the relocation of nine Olympic legacy swimming pools around the country. The total number of swimming pools in England has increased by 134 since 2011, and currently stands at 5116.
While decisions about the future of Walsall Gala Baths remain a matter for the local authority, this Government welcome the news that the petition prompted the Council to revisit their plans. In September, Walsall Borough Council called for a further and more detailed report for Cabinet and Council consideration, using a cost/benefit analysis approach, as to how an investment cost (of around £1 million) might ensure a further 10-year lease of life for this town centre facility.