Petition details

Extend the opening times of Banbury Outdoor Pool (Woodgreen Leisure Centre)

We the undersigned petition the council to keep the Banbury Outdoor Pool open from the beginning of April until the end of October.

The Banbury Outdoor Pool is currently typically open approximately 4 months per year (late May-mid-September). We would like it to be open from the beginning of April until the end of October. There are several factors which justify this request:
There is a clear demand for swimming throughout the year among the pool users, and extending the opening hours could be the best way to assess the feasibility of such a project. If at present the heating of the pool poses insurmountable challenges, in the first and the last month of the season, the water temperature could be lower with optional wetsuit use. Even if the water temperature is lower in the first and the last month, most swimmers would still prefer the outdoor pool to a long drive to an equally cold river.
In the 1970s, the pool used to open in April, and though then the water was much colder, a large number of people used the pool on a regular basis.[1] In the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in open water swimming.[2] When the Banbury outdoor pool is closed, many people make the journey to the rivers in Stratford and Oxford to swim but this is not a solution for everybody, and swimming in a river can prove dangerous at times (for instance during flooding).
Health benefits: Swimming has great health benefits both physical and mental. It builds endurance and muscle strength, gives cardiovascular fitness; it helps to maintain a healthy weight; and it provides an all-over workout. It is especially important for people who cannot do other exercises due to certain health conditions or injuries. Swimming also has an important role in tackling obesity.[3] Apart from these physical health benefits, swimming alleviates stress and helps fighting depression and dementia.[4]
The danger of spreading the virus COVID19 outdoors is much less than indoors, and therefore an outdoor pool gives the opportunity to swim to many people who would not feel comfortable to go to an indoor pool. This outdoor pool gives the opportunity to people to exercise in the fresh air.
Community: the pool is an important centre for communal activities. In September, some swimming lessons were moved from Spiceball Leisure Centre to Woodgreen Leisure Centre, because there wasn't room at the indoor pool for all the lessons while preserving social distancing. Apart from a safer environment, an additional advantage of this change was that the children could hear the instructor clearer without the background noise of an indoor pool. The proposed extension in opening times would result in the pool being available for swimming lessons for a larger proportion of the school year. The extended opening hours could be of interest not only to swimmers but to local or regional sport clubs, such as canoe, triathlon and diving clubs. Some such clubs already do use the pool and maybe interested in using it for more of the year. These activities would provide an additional income stream for the pool.
Changing climate: due to the warming climate, spring starts earlier and the warm weather lasts longer, which creates a much longer window and increases the demand for outdoor activities.[5]
Tourist attraction: This 50m open air pool is an underexploited asset with regional significance. There are few such pools of this size in Britain, so this one has the potential to attract people to the town.
Employment: the extended opening hours would have to potential to create jobs for local people.

[1]Information is from Anne and Chris Jones, who have been living in Banbury since 1972.

Started by: Zsofia Buda

On reaching 10 signatures An officer will investigate the matter further and respond

This Petition ran from 21/11/2020 to 08/02/2021 and has now finished.

316 people signed this Petition.

Council response

A response from the Corporate Director was sent to the petition organiser via email on 8 February. The response is copied below:

Dear Ms Buda

Thank you for your petition in reference to Outdoor Pool at Woodgreen Leisure Centre, Banbury, with specific reference to extending the months the facility opens beyond the current May to early September to include April to the end of October.

As I’m sure you will appreciate the operating costs of a facility such as this can be considerable and with external temperatures in April and October likely to be cooler than May to September heating the pool to a suitable level for swimming can be even more costly.

As a District Council (and in partnership with our Leisure Operator) we are however prepared to open the Outdoor Pool from April 2021 to end of October 2021 on a trial basis to ascertain the interest in opening for extended months of the year but also to understand the financial sustainability of this in future years.

It is likely that these will be targeted sessions for example early morning swimming/lunchtime sessions rather than an ‘all day’ operation to improve the viability. In addition, the intention will be to heat the pool to a lower temperature than from May to September which has been outlined in the petition.

As a caveat to this clearly any restrictions being imposed from Central Government due to the Covid pandemic may have implications as to when the Pool can open, and this will be communicated via the Leisure Centre’s website. As we enter into the month of October, we will continue to keep the opening hours under review based on the likely increase of inclement weather as well as the number of attendees. This may mean that the season is curtailed earlier should long range forecasts be poor, and trends of use start to decrease significantly.

I hope that this will be seen as a positive step in response to your petition and subject to the easing of the Covid pandemic restrictions I hope to see many of you making use of the pool throughout the season.

Yours sincerely

Jane Portman
Corporate Director