Abbey Meadow outdoor pool’s future secured despite spiralling energy costs

Abbey Meadow outdoor pool’s future secured despite spiralling energy costs
Vale of White Horse District Council has secured Abbey Meadow outdoor pool’s future for many more summers of fun despite spiralling energy costs.

Families will be able to enjoy summer holidays at Abbey Meadow outdoor pool and splash pad in Abingdon for years to come with the pool’s future secured despite spiralling energy costs that have closed pools all around the country.

The school holidays are by far the pool’s busiest time, and so the Vale of White Horse District Council has agreed on a deal that ensures it can open when it’s most needed, even though running costs like oil to heat the pool have more than doubled.

Increasingly high running costs and the impact of the pandemic, along with other significant financial challenges facing all local authorities, have meant more than 200 swimming pools have closed around the country in the past couple of years.

To help address these significant financial challenges and ensure the pool could remain open, last year, the council agreed to a financial package with GLL, the company employed to run the it.

The agreement sets out the summer holiday opening schedule, which will run until 2026. This year, the pool is scheduled to open on 25 July and will remain open for six weeks throughout the holidays.

The outdoor pool is very costly to run and has always needed to be heavily subsidised, even when at its busiest. Heating costs for the pool alone this season are expected to be around £107,000, compared to £47,000 in previous seasons*.

However, aligning the pool’s season with its most financially viable period reduces the financial burden to Vale council taxpayers and helps ensure the council can protect and maintain its vital frontline public services such as waste and recycling, housing support and play areas and public spaces.

The council has worked with GLL to make it possible to open the splash pad at Abbey Meadow a few weeks earlier than the pool, from Saturday 28 May, ahead of the Platinum Jubilee long weekend, the same time as the splash pad in Wantage, which is managed by the council’s in-house team.

Councillor Helen Pighills, Cabinet Member for Healthy Communities at the Vale, said: “We’re pleased to have a deal that keeps the Abbey Meadow pool and splash pad open for years to come.

“We know that this is a much-loved facility, and making sure it was open during the main school summer holidays was a priority for us, especially when many households may not be able to afford holidays this year with the cost of living so high.

“We’ve looked at a wide range of options and have listened to the public’s feedback. Aligning the pool’s season with the school summer holidays is a financially sensible option and means we’ve been able to secure the pool’s future and ensure our residents can enjoy it when they need it most, all while protecting our other vital services.”

*Fuel costs for 2019/20 (which was the last full season due to COVID-19) for heating Abbey Meadow Pool were £47,000, and this season, the costs are estimated to be £107,000.

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