Queen’s Street Pool – Proposed Closure

Letter to Derby Telegraph by our Vice-Chair

The Derby CC website says: ‘Queen’s Leisure Centre is a sport and leisure facility conveniently located in the city centre. There is a range of facilities and activities available including 3 multi-purpose Swimmingpools (Gala pool, Family pool and Teaching pool), as well as a varied programme of classes and indoor cycling classes.’  Yet just two weeks ago the Derby Telegraph reported that this ‘Well-known Derby leisure centre could close next year’, and, that ‘The Conservative-run authority claims the 95-year-old building on Cathedral Road, used by tens of thousands of people over generations for swimming and other sports, “is not suitable for modern leisure use”.’  Well, we beg to differ; it is in a city-centre location ideally suited to our use and we believe it should be maintained in addition to Moorways.

The Midland Canoe Club, based at Darley Abbey since 1972, celebrates its 70th birthday this year, and has been using Derby City pools on a weekly basis for well over half of that time (Reginald Street initially, and then for the last three decades at the Queen’s).  Along with other QLC pool users – e.g. Viking Canoe Club (one of the UK’s premier canoe polo clubs), the sub-aqua club, and the swimming clubs who are members of the Derby City Sport Forum (DCSF)–we have frequently expressed our concerns regarding the future (or lack) of thistown centre-based QLC pools facility, yet as the months roll on it is obvious that decisions are being made in the background that will directly affect this, especially once the new facilities at Moorways are finally up and running in 2022.

Derby CC states as one of the prime reasons for the QLC’s planned closure the, “…significant cost of repairs and maintenance required to maintain the facilities and bring all three pool halls back into use as well as the cost of large scale refurbishment to keep the facility open in the long term.”  Yet this brings to mind the comment (attributed to a certain Mr A. Einstein), ‘Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.’  And this is the problem with Derby CC’s thinking, in that when you (i.e. society) manage by costs alone, the overall costs inevitably go up – to all of us!  Yes, Derby CC can save some money by not maintaining the QLC facility.  But over the coming years and decades youngsters who are unable to access these facilities because of this loss of essential provision may well end up falling foul of other ‘systems’; e.g. the NHS, the law, social services, etc., none of which can be ‘counted’, yet all of it costs!  This is simply false economy to meet arbitrary cost-cutting targets,and is incredibly short-term thinking.  The local community deserves better.

One DCSF member club makes the point that Mr Clawson-Chan, ‘…who is heading up the feasibility debate for Queens (or not as the case may be!) is overseeing the Moorways project (so probably justifying decisions too), but he was also instrumental in closing the Allestree golf course; yet now, with Covid fall-out, golf is enjoying a spectacular boom in uptake!  Once gone, lost forever, seems to be all too familiar.’

Because of this clearly widely-held concern, and on behalf of all who have been using Derby CC’s town-centre pools for many years, can we please lobby the City Council’s senior management in the sincerest terms to reconsider these issues in a much wider context, and to maintain the QLC pools open as part of the their continued strategic provision of swimming pool facilities in and for the residents of Derby and all its ‘Aqua user groups’?  As we have pointed out previously, the QLC has been for a long while the only such facility that is easily accessible to all, from all directions and via public transport (which people are being encouraged to use more and more), and as Derby CC have openly stated before, even with the new Moorways pools open, there would still be insufficient pool time available to adequately meet the current and expected demands of the growing population within and around Derby.

We are aware that a number of other pool users are of the same view, as evinced by many similar pleas at previous meetings of the QLC’s ‘Aqua User-Groups’meetings, and similar opinions have been expressed at the Derby City Sport Forum over a number of years.

Viking CC, for example, cite that in the planning for the new Moorways pool facilities the most glaring omission was discovering that the calculations for meeting club use were all based on what sessions clubs had undertaken over the previous couple of years, therefore all the sessions that were provided for clubs did not take into account the sessions that were run at Moorways before it closed, whereas there were many clubs that lost water time when it finally did close.The point here is that athletes can’t train twice at the same time (i.e. booking both 25m pools in one session), they need sessions over a number of days, but mathematically it can look like the water provision has been increased, when in actuality it hasn’t.

Also, all of these QLC user groups – in almost all cases, like ours, volunteer-run – do valiant work in helping members young and old remain active, healthy, learn new skills and in some cases, even become world champions (we’ve had our own); yet it is far from clear that these groups – ourselves included – would be able to continue this at the new Moorways facility, as it is far less accessible to many, and, situated where it is, also lacks the opportunity for any related, club-based social activities.We would wish to emphasis that the central position also helps bring people into the city at a time when cities are struggling to attract people into towns. This also helps keep the town centre vibrant,boosting local businesses such as pubs and restaurants.

Can Derby CC please, therefore, to take these views into serious consideration?  It would be a very sad day indeed if a number of current user groups were forced to cease their excellent, positive and health-giving activities as a result of the closure of this very popular and ideally situated central facility.

If the last two years of Covid and the last two weeks in Tokyo have shown and taught us anything, it is that the UK needs more, not fewer, of these facilities, if the health, wellbeing and successes of our future generations are to be maintained.

John Chamberlin

President & Trustee, Midland Canoe Club

Vice Chairman, DCSF