A public consultation on the future of a much-loved pool in south Bristol is to be extended by a month and a working group established to determine whether the pool can be saved.
But city councillors have clashed over whether the latest twist in the battle to save Jubilee pool in Knowle is a genuine attempt to keep it open or simply a political delaying tactic.
Bristol City Council launched an eight-week public consultation last month proposing the permanent closure of the public swimming pool, saying any options to keep it open would be financially irresponsible.
It remains closed more than five months after it was shut because of coronavirus, but operator Parkwood Leisure is contracted to run the pool until 2022.
At full council on Tuesday (September 8), Conservative councillor Graham Morris called on the elected mayor to honour the contract and keep the pool open until at least 2022, spend the “relatively modest” sum to allow it to reopen in a Covid-safe way, and withdraw the threat of permanent closure.
But the majority Labour group pushed through an amendment that instead called on Marvin Rees to extend the public consultation by a month to enable “further exploration of options” to honour the contract and keep the pool open until at least 2022.
It also calls on Mr Rees to set up a cross-party group to look at “potential solutions” to keep the pool open.
These would include options previously ruled out by officers, such as the community buying the pool to run themselves, an option the mayor has publicly backed.
Members voted on the amended motion after discussing a petition of over 4,700 signatures calling on Mr Rees to keep the pool open.
For news tailored to your local area, powered by In Your Area:
Labour councillor Tim Rippington, who tabled the amendment, said Labour did not want to close the swimming pool but Covid-19 and insufficient government funding had left the leisure centre in a “perilous state”.
“We recognise the benefits of a local pool that people in the area can walk to…so we will be doing everything we can over the next few weeks to investigate all possible alternatives to closure,” Cllr Rippington said.
But opposition councillors, who voted against the amendment, said it weakened the original motion and created “false hope”.
In a statement released by the Conservative group after the meeting, Cllr Morris branded the amended motion a “sham solution” that “sets up delay and creates a talking shop that doesn’t guarantee reopening at all”.
“The fight goes on as the future of Jubilee remains in doubt but we are prepared to take this offer of cross-party cooperation at face value and try to find a solution which supports the aspirations of petitioners and residents,” Cllr Morris said.
The Labour amendment was narrowly pushed through by 32 votes to 30, after which the amended motion passed by 40 votes as the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups abstained in the final vote.
The public consultation, which was originally due to close on October 7, says at least £260,000 would be needed to allow Jubilee pool “to function and prevent further deterioration”.
“Parkwood has requested financial assistance from the council to offset lost revenue and keeping Jubilee Pool closed costs around £6,000 per month,” it says.
“The council has agreed to provide Parkwood with financial assistance while it remains closed so that a consultation on the future of Jubilee Pool can be carried out.”
Meanwhile, it is contractually obliged to compensate the operators of Hengrove Park Leisure Centre – Bristol Active Limited and subcontractor Parkwood – at least £900,000 for lost revenue at Hengrove due to Covid-19 during 2020/21.