A proper size swimming pool COULD be built inside Falmouth's threatened leisure centre at a fraction of the cost of building a new one.

At a virtual Q&A hosted on Wednesday night (October 7) by Cornwall Council, attendees were told that there was plenty of room in The Ships and Castles leisure centre on Pendennis Headland to put in 25m swimming pool if the fun pool was ripped out.

The site is currently run by GLL, a not for profit company, which says it can no longer afford to run the centre along with a number of others in the county. In response Cornwall Council is holding a consultation on whether to close them.

James Curry, head of service for GLL in the South West and Wales, told the meeting that the Ships and Castles site was particularly problematic because of what it was. Use of the centre had only returned to 70% of what it was before the pandemic

Responding to a question from Falmouth resident Tom Hicks on whether problems with people returning to the centre had been exacerbated by the lack of a proper pool he said that was exactly the case.

"You have hit the nail on the head," he said. "Ships and Castles water space has a number of challenges obviously depth varies so it doesn't suit lane swimming.

"What we have seen across the whole of Cornwall is a resurgence of fitness swimming as chlorinated water is known to kill Covid.

"A lot of people have returned to swimming as a form of exercise. Our casual swimming numbers are up across Cornwall as a whole.

"Ships and Castles doesn't really have the sort of pool to suit the fitness swimmer and there is no doubt fitness swimming is making a bit of a resurgence not just at GLL sites but the UK as a whole.

"Absolutely, totally agree that Falmouth ideally needs a 25 metre pool. We have to work with what we've got. It's a challenge."

Mr Hicks, who has two children in the Gyllyngvase Surf Lifesaving Club, said considering closing Falmouth's only proper leisure facility without having a viable alternative in place was his biggest worry.

"Conversion of the site to take away a leisure pool and putting in a 25m pool where there clearly looks like there is enough space for one would be of significantly lower cost than the £10m quoted [for a brand new pool]," he said.

"So effectively we are in times when we are talking about sustainability, with low carbon footprints and knocking down an existing building versus reusing the existing building. Maybe putting a different roof on is I think a viable option. If not that, then looking at what the other alternatives are for a proper facility with sports hall, gym facilities swimming."

Jane Zessimedes, Cornwall Council's leisure consultation lead officer, said she had heard the same that if the current pool was replaced, that the cost would be considerably less.

"Nothing has been decided," she said "We need to explore the 'art of the possible' and decide what we can do."


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Any changes would require planning consent, she said, and any decision on the future of the centre will be made by Cornwall Council's cabinet committee on December 15.

However Mrs Zessimedes did say that the possibility of extending any possible closure past April 1 and reconsidering whether to sell off the land would be entirely possible but that would again be up to cabinet.

In summary GLL said the company had already invested £750k in Ships and Castles but it lost £243,000 in 2019 and is projected to lose £100,000 a year.

Utility bills are £250k a year because of the structure and a 25 meter pool would generate more income.

In November, after the consultation, Cornwall Council will hold meetings with groups who are putting forward proposals.

Jude Robinson founder of Falmouth Needs A Public Swimming Pool, action group said yesterday: "It was good to hear last night that Cornwall Council are reconsidering their statement that they would sell off the Ships and Castles land and use the proceeds for other priorities.

"Providing a public pool for Falmouth is the only priority they should be thinking about at the moment. I was also pleased to hear they may extend the deadline so that the town can come up with solutions. It feels like we have taken a step forward."

The consultation document can be found at letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/leisure