Don’t save Ladywell Pool!

We’re anticipating that this may not be a very popular position…

As the Save Ladywell Pool campaigners admit, their bid to stop the Council shutting the pool before a replacement has been built has now been won. It’s our understanding that that in no circumstances will the Council shut Ladywell until an alternative at Loampit Vale (next to Lewisham Station) has been built. Great.

The original aims of the campaign were very sensible. Lewisham is already poorly served with community pools, compared with, for example, Greenwich. With Forest Hill closed until an unspecified point in the future and Wavelengths undergoing major works, closing the pool for a period of several years would have been a travesty.

However, that argument having been won, the campaigners have branched out…

"Unfortunately the Council has now come public with the plan for the Leisure Centre that is supposed to replace Ladywell Pool in a few years time and this plan is unacceptably poor.
We are now fighting for a decent centre to replace Ladywell Pool. With the current offer we are better off with Ladywell."

Maddeningly, though, they don’t specify what their objections are, and the website is so dense with links and information, that, it's impossible to actually find anything - if greater detail of their concerns is provided, we’ve not found it.

What we do know is that what the Council is promising is as follows:

The proposals for Loampit Vale are to provide a new:

8 lane 25 metre competition pool
20 metre teaching pool with moveable floor
Dance, exercise and aerobics studio
100 station fitness suite
Health spa

Brockley Central has nothing against Ladywell Pool, but neither does it hold it in much affection – our childhood memories having been scarred by trips there to compete for our swimming club and generally being on the losing side.

The centre itself seemed pretty shabby 25 years ago and time has been even less kind to it than it has to our speedo-physique. The pool is still impressive but as a whole it doesn’t meet modern standards and doesn’t offer the kind of multi-sport, mixed-use experience which is widely recognised as being the key to successful community leisure centres. In short, it’s a bit grim.

Of course, Ladywell has its regular users who enjoy it, but the most powerful argument on the side of the campaigners has always been that Lewisham should seek to widen community sport participation. That being the case, then sentiment has to make way for progress and we have to build a centre that will appeal to young people and the wider public who don’t fancy a trip to Ladywell’s dank changing rooms.

The Council presents a convincing case that refurbishment of Ladywell is not economically efficient over the long-term. It seems that energy would be better spent They also make the very sensible point that Loampit Vale is far-more accessible for the majority of Lewisham people:

“Although the transport links at Ladywell are good, those at Loampit Vale are much better providing a variety of choice. There are 9 bus routes (2 at night) to Ladywell compared to 25 (4 at night) to Lewisham town centre. 10 trains a hour stop at Ladywell at peak compared to 25 at Lewisham. In addition the DLR terminates at Lewisham with at peak 20 trains an hour. The site is also on the Waterlink Way providing good access for walkers and cyclists.”

Given these arguments, the planned facilities already represent an improvement on Ladywell. To say that Ladywell should stay open in preference to what’s on offer, sounds wrong. although of course, it would be great if a way could be found to include diving or squash facilities at Loampit Vale, for example.

We’d welcome a contribution from a campaigner against the Loampit Vale scheme, to better-understand their current objections.

A consultation period is currently under way.


Andrew Brown said...

What, "council get it just about right"! Watch out Nick you'll be run out of town on a rail if they catch you.

max said...

I'll write more about it later, in the meantime to understand what's wrong with the current proposal of the Council you can read this paper that I wrote for the Overview and Scrutiny Business POanel of Lewisham Council.
unfortunately the Labour members are (indecently) unwilling to scrutinize the Mayor's decision and the officer's work so they passed it through.

max said...

It is the Council officer's style to make their argument "look" sensible.

The Save Ladywell Pool website is packed of information because it is the only way to counter the deceit if the Council.

It's the result of extensive research and unfortunately to get the picture one has to do some reading.

Let's take for example the argument that you quoted about the new location being better because of transports, put it like that sounds right but unfortunately it doesn't consider that:

- the current location is better placed for the Hospital users, in fact quite a sizable numbers of users are people with scarse mobility referred by the Hospital and find it convenient to just cross the road:

- the proposed location has extensive overlapping catchment area with Wavelenghts pool:

- it's arguable that because it is such a busy junction and it is almost constantly congested that that is not the best place where to add a facility.

But there's all sorts of holes in the Council's argument and to produce their plan they had to go through all the tricks of Town Hall deception.
In the most recent papers you may read that Ladywell Pool is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act for example.
I saw an officer telling to the Mayor that this is an additional reason to demolish Ladywell.
I couldn't believe that that was true as Ladywell's gym is on the ground floor, there is a lift and an apparatus to lower disabled people in the water so I asked the manager what flaws there were and the answer was that the buttons of the lift needs a braille translation and the disabled toilet needs an extra rail.
Of course if you read the officer's report it sounds very sensible, only that it's pure deceit. It's not technically a lie, but only just.

The biggest deceit nevertheless is that one committed with the Leisure Needs Analysis, the report that they commissioned to a consultant to determine the amount of facility to build.
That's an old trick, when they need to write something that is completely false they hire somebody to do it for them.
That report is a shame, it contains a string of factual inaccuracies that looks like they have been assembled purposely for getting away with providing something less than what they should.

Following the change of Unitary Development Plan this pool is planned to be built together with the Loampit Vale develomen (754 flats), next door to the Gateway developmen (600 flats + other uses), Thurston Road developments (all the industrial area to become high density residential, only one block planned in detail will have over 200 flats), and 500 flats at Conington road.
This sums up to an enormous development and a pool of that size in the basement of a block of flat there will in practice be the lifestyle pool of the new redeveloped town centre.
That pool does not have the capacity to serve those residents and the rest of the population.

It is a shame that the officers have produced this plan, it is a shame that the Mayor is bringing this forward and it is a shame that the Labour members of Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel protect him.

We are campaigning to keep Ladywell because the offer of the Council is poor and provenly so, should they up that to make it adequate we wouldn't have anything against.

It isn't true that Ladywell cannot be refurbished, in fact it would cost a fraction of the cost of a new facility and the result would be better.
At least it will still have a window!!
Have you read anywhere on the Council's papers that the new pool won't have windows?
Of course not, but you'll discover that that is indeed the plan if you take the time to go through the drawings of the project.
They shoved it in the courtyard of 4 tall blocks of flats.
There's so much that is wrong with this plan and I think that we're doing well to campaign to inform the people of the abysmal performance of the council and of their deceitful ways.
Save Ladywell Pool!

max said...

Sorry, I forgot, shame also on Cllr Dave Britton (Conservative, Grove Park) for not showing up at Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel meetings thus transforming the 5 Labour members into a majority.

Brockley Nick said...

Hi Max

Thanks for going to such lengths to respond to this article - you've definitely helped to shed light on the objections. This is a side issue, but I would say that the website being "packed with information" is counter-productive, if people have to wade through it to get to the heart of the current issue. Anyway, to your points.

Presentation - yes, I'm sure they did try to make their arguments "look" sensible. Are you suggesting that they shouldn't? Seems a rather silly criticism and one that the Council could just as easily level at campaigners like you.

Transport - I think it's better for a community pool of this scale to be located where the most people have ready access to it (to encourage greater participation in sport) than to serve a relatively small number of hospital patients. Perhaps there are better ways to serve their particular needs? Not sure about overlap with Wavelengths - seems like they serve two distinct communities and as you point out, there will be a lot of high-density housing built around here. Sustainable communities need public facilities and it seems sensible to put a swimming baths where the most people have ready access to them. And as for congestion, I take it you mean cars? Surely the hope is that more people go by public transport? Locating major public amenities next to public transport hubs is a central plank of planners' attempts to create sustainable transport. Besides, Ladywell's pretty nightmarish for traffic too. Loampit Vale is far, far better for public transport. No question.

Disabled facilities - I'm sure you're right that they could bring Ladywell up to minimum standards relatively easily, although it's a lot easier to cater properly for disabled people when you're starting from scratch.

Design - lack of windows does sound offputting - would like to see the designs before passing further comment.

'A lifestyle pool' for the new community - this criticism seems to amount to a suggestion that it would benefit "newcomers" to the borough disproportionately. So what? They're still people right? The Council needs to reflect their needs just as well doesn't it? And if it feels that that will help create wider benefits through the regeneration of Lewisham town centre then so much the better.

I think a more valid argument would be to say that if the borough's population is expanding, we need more facilties, not just replacement ones. The extension of your argument seems to be that all these people moving in to Lewisham centre should have to slog all the way to Ladywell (thereby clogging up the roads) because if it was on their doorstep, they might use it too much.

I admit these are all initial reactions to your points and I will investigate further before posting again on the subject.

I think your blog is great, by the way.

max said...

Hi Nick,

the website is a bit of a maze of information and I need to do something about it asap but the fact is that I wasn't supposed to be campaigning anymore. If the proposed replacement wouldn't have been so unsatisfactory I would be happily minding my business by now.

Let me answer to your points in detail.

It is legitimate to present a job in the best possible light. It is deceit to produce sentences that make believe that there is a job done behind it when there is none.
Again let me use your original post as an example because it seems to me that you fell for the trick like a manual case study.
You wrote "The Council presents a convincing case that refurbishment of Ladywell is not economically efficient over the long-term."

Well, they say so but is it? Have they done a study to show this? No actually.
The building is basically sound and well built, it is not very energy efficient but that could be improved, and the energy cost of pulling it down and rebuilding would easily outweigh a few energy losses even over hundreds of years.

Then you say "I think it's better for a community pool of this scale to be located where the most people have ready access to it"

Of this scale? Of what scale?
That's exactly the point, this is not anything to tell home about, it's a basic pool and it's grossly undersized, in fact it's even smaller than Ladywell that is crowded at all peak times.
That's what I asked twice at Mayor and Cabinet and twice at Overview and Scrutiny.
If the access is better why isn't the pool bigger.
Do you know what they answer? Nothing, they speak of something else. Every time it's a sickening farce!

It seems to me that when looking at accessability you have also discarded the fact that the pool serves the hospital and Loampit Vale is quite a distance if you are a person of low mobility and that brings me to the next point.
You write:
"I'm sure you're right that they could bring Ladywell up to minimum standards relatively easily, although it's a lot easier to cater properly for disabled people when you're starting from scratch."

Ladywell is perfectly accessible to disabled people, the gym is on the ground floor, there's a lift for the pool floor and a machine to lower people in the water. There are no barriers whatsoever.
Where it is not fully compliant with the legislation is in the diabled toilet where it lacks one rail and in the lift where the buttons don't have braille translation.
It is scandalous that officers have mentioned this as a reason to pull the pool down.
We probably spent more public money to pay for the time that it took them to write this than we would have if a handyman would have gone there and fixed these deficiencies.
To reinforce this point I inform you that the phisiotherapy department of the Hospital complained about the moving of the pool but of course the Council's papers will never mention this.

You write:
"Design - lack of windows does sound offputting - would like to see the designs before passing further comment."
Here they are:

On the point of the lifestyle pool for the new developments.
I do have a problem and that is that the pool is then supposed to replace another that is serving another part of the community.
If they want to build an additional pool for those new residents well I'd be over the moon but this is not that, this is supposed to serve everyone but this won't do.
I can say this because I have looked at the work prepared by the council in detail. It's all available on the Save Ladywell Pool website and you're welcome to read it through.

You conclude by saying:
"I think a more valid argument would be to say that if the borough's population is expanding, we need more facilities, not just replacement ones."

I'm sorry, the Council is rushing this proposal through and is not going to build an additional pool somewhere else to compensate those residents of Catford and Rushey Green that are the loosers of this trade.
Ask Steve Bullock to build another pool, in these cases he usually say "in an ideal world..."

I have been engaging with the Council to have them building a replacement that is of value, I didn't reject the new pool on any principle and I am satisfied with myself for having kept an open mind, I am also happy that I have studied the case in depth and I speak with knowledge but as I only found shiftyness and arrogance I am now asking people to make a clear point because there is a need of an action now.

The Council is not valuing our intelligence, why should I at this point value theirs.

kate said...

sorry but i feel i have to say something about this. Max has campaigned tirelessy to let the people of this borough know what is going on with regards to ladywell pool. He has highlighted that the council have provided very poor plans for the new pool development and that they are very underhand with the way that they release or provide information to the public.
I am not hapy with the plans for lewisham gateway or the new pool and think alot more thought and inter-action between the council, developers and RESIDENTS needs to happen before any thing happens.
I live very close tp ladywell pool and not far from where the proposed pool will be so this affects me aswell as many other local people.
I say save ladywell pool! And i would urge lewisham council to step back and take a real look at this whole situation.

max said...

Thanks Kate,
it seems that it is possible to make sense of the information available on Save Ladywell Pool after all.

Anyway Nick, just to recap, please take a look at the proposal here:

then my fully referenced objection here:

All other documents referred to in my objection are available here:

All this is available on the Save Ladywell Pool campaign website.
I have to say this, it would have been better if you had read this BEFORE writing your post and even before writing your reply to my comment.

Brockley Nick said...

Max, thanks for the further documents.

As to whether I should have written this article - thanks, but I'm happy that I should have.

The points the article made were.

1. Ladywell Pool is a bit rubbish
2. The Council are proposing a superior facility in a better location
3. SaveLadywellPool says that it objects but makes it very hard to understand why
4. It would be great to hear from the objectors to explain more.

Point one is a subjective opinion based on personal experience - this is a blog, after all.

Point two is based on reading your site and the council review papers and reaching my own conclusions.

Point three resulted from the fact that your home page starts off with a two articles about the decline of diving boards in the UK and a third criticising the consultation process. So I turned to the "about us" section - all stuff about the old campaign - which is now history. I then clicked on "about ladywell..." same problem. "Campaign news" just repeats the stuff on the home page. And so it goes... A simple, list of reasons at the top of the home page why Ladywell Pool is better than the proposed new pool at the top of the home page would make it easier for those people who, unlike Kate, haven't spent years following the debate, to understand. These are the people the campaign needs to reach. It was meant to be constructive criticism.

Point four, you've done, which I think is admirable.

I have not been convinced by the case against Loampit Vale. For example, there is development in Southwark, by the Coin Street collective, which follows a similar model (although granted, it does have windows!). Coin Street has been widely praised for its vision. The lack of windows is a concern, but that schematic you linked to doesn't really tell us anything about the architects' ideas.

My view remains that, of course it would be great to have two pools, but if we can only have one then Loampit Vale would be best and our efforts should therefore focus on trying to get the most out of it.

Anyway, thanks again for coming on here and putting your case so passionately. I'm sure many will have found it helpful.

I will follow this up in future.

max said...

I didn't say that you shouldn't have written what you did, I said that you should have first got your facts right, the Save Ladywell Pool site, although at present a bit of a maze is a vest repository of information, it allows comments and if one is unconvinced there's email address and even a telephone number for explanations and plenty of people does contact me.
I'm sorry if I'm unconvinced by your explanation about the last two posts being about diving, I'm sure that you know how to scroll down a page.

I dispute that the Loampit Vale proposal is superior to Ladywell on the following grounds:
- it has no deep end that allows diving;
- the pool provision is smaller in spite of being a popular pool;
- it has no windows;
- it has no outdoor space (Ladywell has an outdoor space that's underutilized and a lot of activities could be done there, if they haven't it's only the fault of the Council);
- it is further away form the hospital and it is widely used for therapeutic use;
- it occupies its own freehold land thus allowing expansion;
- it is in a better location with regard to the distribution of facilities across the borough;

Nevertheless, I didn't reject a new pool to replace Ladywell, if there's something better then welcome, but this is not the case therefore I think that to demolish Ladywell and replace it with what proposed at Loampit Vale is a huge waste of public money that only goes in the intersts of the developers involved in the Town Centre that would be able to sell their goods at a premium because there will be a new pool in the complex.

I'm baffled by your mentioning of another project to justify this one by hinting at an association that is very feeble.
You say that Coin Street is a similar scheme (although with windows) and that it has been praised and that you see this as a reason to appreciate the development at Loampit Vale.
Surely you'll have to decide on the specific merits, not on those of another pool!
I also just looked at the Coin Street project and notice quite a few marked differeces beyond the windows.

To conclude you say that "our efforts should focus of trying to get the most out of it (Loampit Vale)".

If you had read those papers that I provided you would have noticed that that's exactly what I have been trying to do.

The paper submitted by me to the Council makes the case for an enhanced provision there at Loampit Vale and demonstrates how the work done by the Council has very little merit, unfortunately my attempt of dialogue with the Council didn't have any result.

So, reluctantly I have to add my name to the list of those that say that the Town Hall speaks only to itself. You may know how to improve that plan, I don't and that's why I am now suggesting people to reject the Council's proposal and that may be one way to have it improved.

max said...

Anyway, thanks for the constructive criticism, I'll try to make the site readable as soon as I can.
There are new items releated to the consultation on the pipeline, I'll add a Q&A on top.

As I said I've been catapulted into campaigning by the Council and the site took the backseat for a few days whilst I did other offline work.

Anonymous said...

Hello Nick

you seem to be a man who is in desperate need of information about whats going on the the centre of Lewisham.

Can I direct you to the website of a group of residents who are concerned about the lewisham Gateway development?

Our website address is

Perhaps you could put the address in your side panel as well – its an important topic that every resident should know about and be aware of many of the facts that are being concealed to allow a foolish and destructive development to go ahead.

Thanks very much

richard proctor

kate said...

hi nick, you seem to mis understand i have only followed anything to do with local issues since last november. There are lots of documents that mean little to me because of the way they are written. Fortunately for me there are people like Max and Richard proctor that make a very good case for people to understand without too much jargon.
I'm pleased that you have brought this subject up but surely even you can see that even though ladywell pool looks crap it is functional and well served by transport despite your earlier mention of this ladywell pool does serve a purpose.
i just think that the whole thing needs far more looking into and lets not just build another pool for the sake of it and waste yet more money.

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