£200,000 for Eastbourne pool is ‘totally inadequate’, resident says

A resident said the £200,000 set aside to repair a pool in Eastbourne isn’t enough and fears the site will be sold for redevelopment.
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In 2020 Motcombe Pool closed due to covid restrictions. While it was shut a number of maintenance issues were raised, according to Eastbourne Borough Council.

Residents have been fearful for the future of the pool ever since. Although the council has confirmed it won’t be sold, the continued lack of certainty is causing frustration for residents.

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In a full council meeting last week (February 23) councillors agreed for up to £200,000 of match-funding to be made available for maintenance works at Motcombe Pool.

Motcombe Pool has been shut since 2020Motcombe Pool has been shut since 2020
Motcombe Pool has been shut since 2020

It is understood this funding would be made available to as-yet unfounded a Community Interest Company (CIC), which would be able to bid for further funding from elsewhere.

A CIC is a kind of non-charitable limited company which exists to benefit a community rather than making a profit for shareholders.

Resident Phil Hall spoke at the meeting. He said, “For many years the council has starved the pool of investment and what little investment there has been was misallocated and misspent as evidenced by the independent survey the council commissioned, which references, ‘historically poor quality repairs’.”

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He said the council’s arguments around the age of the building are ‘irrelevant’.

Phil said, “It’s the level of investment that’s important. The Hippodrome was built in 1883, the Winter Gardens in 1875 yet both have received hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment. The key difference is those sites are visitor attractions first, for local residents second. Motcombe is a community asset, first and foremost for local residents, for council taxpayers and their families.

“I again stress that this is all about priorities. So, I end with a plea for the council to prioritise this much loved community asset.”

Speaking after the meeting Phil said, “It’s great that the council yesterday agreed to give £200,000 to a yet to be established Community Interest Company in order to repair the pool but the sum is totally inadequate given £1m is needed to restore the building.

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“I know the council says that by giving the pool away to a Community Interest Company other grants and sources of income can be accessed that the council is incapable of delivering, but with the best will in the world they are not going to attract £800,000 in grants from various sources.

“It’s just an attempt to avoid responsibility. The council needs to maintain the building itself or if it’s determined to give it away to someone else to restore, it must do so with a realistic amount of funding.”

He told the meeting that plans have been drawn up for two flats on the site, despite the council previously saying it wouldn’t be sold.

Phil said, “Once closed, I was immediately fearful the site would be sold off for housing. My fears appear to be well founded given exchanges between councillors and the council’s commercial project manager who referenced plans for two flats on part of the site as recently as November last year.”

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A Freedom of Information request shows councillors discussed whether a building next to the pool could be converted into two flats.

Councillor Stephen Holt, deputy leader of the council, said, “There is £10,000 in support from officers to the new CIC which is being established. This is in addition to the £200,000 allocated once the CIC has started to raise funds.

“In terms of previous comments. As stated Motcombe Pool will not be sold or redeveloped for housing. We asked officers to consider, for any future CIC, whether the offices next to the pool could be converted for future use for the CIC as an income generator, while ownership being retained within the CIC. However, there are no plans, and never have been, to change use of the pool.

“It would be entirely up to the CIC to determine what happens to the pool and the offices.

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“We have made clear, that Motcombe Pool is an important asset to the community. The proposals to establish a CIC for this facility makes absolute sense given the success of nearby pools such as Saltdean Lido in securing funding and responding to the needs of the community.”

Helen Burton, deputy mayor and Lib Dem councillor, said, “Motcombe Pool has never made money. In fact, quite the contrary, the pool has always cost more than it has bought in.

“But Old Town councillors and residents know that the future of the pool is about far more than making money. The pool is an intrinsic part of the fabric of our community, loved and used by generations of Old Towners and beyond.”

She said the pool won’t be sold. Cllr Burton said, “Motcombe Pool will be protected and will serve the community for generations to come.”

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On the subject of a CIC, she said it can access sources of funding not open to local authorities such as National Lottery and English Heritage. However, she did stress it would be a ‘lengthy process’ and said it is unlikely the pool will reopen before 2024.

Cllr Burton said due to the high number of heritage assets in the town, finding resources to maintain them ‘continues to be a challenge’.

She said, “The future for Motcombe Pool is best secured through the creation of a CIC, seeking funding from the full range of available of sources, and putting residents at the heart of its future.”

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