CAMPAIGNERS have scored a victory in their fight to save Temple Cowley Pools after it was listed as an ‘asset of community value’.
The status by Oxford City Council means the Save Temple Cowley Pools group will have six months to strike a deal to buy the threatened Cowley complex before it can be sold on the open market.
The council has been planning to sell off the centre – which it says it can no longer afford to maintain – for housing, but has faced a series of legal and planning challenges from Save Temple Cowley Pools.
Nigel Gibson, who has been leading the Save Temple Cowley Pools campaign, said: “I am very pleased indeed.
“We need to discuss with the city council what their expectations are for the price and come up with something that is appropriate.”
There had been an earlier mooted valuation of £1.5m but council leader Bob Price said the council was not marketing it at a particular price but is inviting offers from developers.
Mr Gibson added: “It is not just about the money, it is about keeping the services that people need and want where they need them and want them.”
Mayor of Oxford John Goddard is handed the petition to save the pools by Jane Alexander in 2011
He said he was confident the group could raise enough money through local business investment and fundraising.
Mr Gibson’s group has been working with an architect to come up with designs for how the city council’s demand for housing on the site could be accommodated along with the existing pool and a community centre. This includes an extension on the right-hand side of the building They now have until May 19 to register their interest in bidding for the site. This will trigger a six-month moratorium during which the city council cannot sell the site to anyone else.
In his decision to designate Temple Cowley Pools as an asset of community value, the city council’s head of city development Michael Crofton Briggs said it is “clearly a valuable resource to many”.
He said: “As a local community group is confident it could continue to run, it can be taken to be realistic to think there can continue to be use of the building that would further the social wellbeing of the local community.”
Work is expected to finish by December on a new swimming complex next to Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre, Pegasus Road.
Mr Price said he would have no objection to selling the pool to Mr Gibson’s group.
Mr Price said: “It is on the market at the moment, and like any other property asset we will look at the bids and decide which one is best value for money.
“It would be consistant with local authority law for us to seek a market value for the site.
“We are certainly prepared to talk to the Save Temple Cowley Pools group, there is no harm in that, but it is a discussion which will come back to the market price. It would have no impact on the construction of Blackbird Leys Pool.”
Judith Harley of Old Temple Cowley Residents Association said: “It is very important for the local area, particularly as we have lost the Lord Nuffield sports club to the free school. I think the plan is quite realistic.”
Martin Tasker, of Middle Cowley Residents Action Group, added: “I think the pool is quite viable because it has got regular customers now and a lot of people won’t want to go to Blackbird Leys.”
Michael Crofton Briggs
TIMELINE OF THE SAGA
January 2010 - Oxford City Council announces plans to build a new pool
August 2010 - Council officers recommend building a new pool in Blackbird Leys
Sept 2010 - The council’s executive board backs the decision to demolish Temple Cowley Pools and build the new one in Blackbird Leys
October 2010 - The council says it will push ahead with plans to close Temple Cowley Pools despite a 10,000-signature petition for it to stay
February 2011 - Opposition parties at the city council table alternative budgets to keep the Temple Cowley Pools open. Both are turned down
April 2011 - The pool in Blackbird Leys is granted planning permission, despite neighbours saying the building will be an eyesore
July 2011 - It’s given the final go-ahead and company Willmott Dixon is given the construction contract
August 2011 - The council announces the pool may miss its Olympic opening date after residents lodge a town green application for Blackbird Leys Park
October 2011 - Campaigners launch a judicial review against the decision to close Temple Cowley Pools
March 2012 - Town green application is dismissed by Oxfordshire County Council and a judicial review launched
December 2012 - Campaigners lose a court battle after a High Court judge rules in favour of the city council over the closure of Temple Cowley Pools
April 2013 - A High Court judge gives permission for a judicial review to take place over designating Blackbird Leys Park as a town green
May 2013 - This judicial review is dropped and the city council announces that work will start on the new pool
July 2013 - Work on Blackbird Leys Pool starts
January 2014 - Oxford City Council puts Temple Cowley Pools on the market