A Peterborough city councillor says he is yet to discover who authorised a former hydrotherapy pool to be broken up with only a pile of rubble left as a reminder.
Cllr John Fox said he obtained permission – after a five day wait – to access the former St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool next to Heltwate school, Peterborough, and was shocked by what he saw.
He said his visit was prompted by pool supporters asking him ‘why have they done that Foxy? If there is a logical reason for doing it now, then I would like to know what it is.”
The pool was closed last year by the city council with hopes that a replacement would be funded privately – but that never happened.
“Someone must have come in and smashed up the pool,” said Cllr Fox. “And paid for doing so.
“But why when the site is required for an extension to the next-door school and could have been done then,” he said.
Cllr Fox suspects the work was carried out to ensure it could never re-open, but he still wants to know why a contractor was brought in at this stage to carry out the demolition.
He visited the pool on Friday “and the first thing I said was what the hell have they done this for? It could have been left as it is and decommissioned at a later stage when builders come to extend the school, although there’s not a planning application in for that yet”.
Cllr Fox added: “It was alarmed and secure so why are we going in and knocking it down now, who authorised it? I’m not asking the world.”
He said he has asked the city council but is awaiting a response.
“If won the lottery I would have paid for it to be repaired,” he said.
“It is all very frustrating – from day one it’s not what we wanted. There were promises of another hydro therapy pool -a lot of ifs and buts.”
At one stage the pool had 4,500 registered users but the city council say low usage meant it was being heavily subsidised by up to £4,000 a month.
However St George’s Hydrotherapy Users group disputes this figure.
“The low usage and purported subsidisation was for the Lime Academy sessions – not St George’s,” said their spokesperson.
“St George’s was very well used with around 250 customers (it was a small pool) per week.”
A city council spokesperson said: “The council continues to face financial challenges and to be able to provide the services we need to for a growing population, with more complex needs, we have to think carefully about how we spend taxpayers’ money.
“At a time when there are huge pressures on our budget, for example in the area of children’s social care, the council cannot fund hydrotherapy provision, especially when in every other part of the country this service is funded largely by private organisations or the NHS.”
The council’s Lib Dem leader Christian Hogg remains determined that while St George’s may be out of sight it is far from out of his mind.
“I suspect the Conservative administration is just hoping that people will just give up and move on,” he said.
“However, the tenacity and determination of the St George’s Hydrotherapy Users Group is unlikely to fade away and they have woefully been misjudged by the administration.”
Dr Shabina Asad Qayyum is a Labour city councillor, equally committed to providing a hydrotherapy pool for the city.
“I was introduced to St. George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool even before I became a councillor,” she says.
Last year she reminded residents of the benefits of such a pool. She pointed out such pools:
-Treats an array of chronic pain to ease conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and other musculoskeletal conditions.
-Helps with physiological rehabilitation of those that are less able bodied as a result of strokes, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis and Motor neurone Disease.
– Helps chemo patients after their treatment to ease muscular tension and ease.
– Helps with boosting circulation, and eases stress and anxiety.
St George’s hydrotherapy pool at Heltwate Special School, had 48 hours a week set aside for children and adults with disabilities or long-term health conditions
She added that closure of St George’s hydrotherapy pool “will have a knock-on effect of burdening the already buckling NHS, burdening social care and the input needed to rehabilitate the less mobile, frail, and vulnerable population.
“In the long term, the economic implications will be disastrous for social care and the local authority.”
St George’s Hydrotherapy Users group pointed out that that the pool had benefited children and adults with a wide range of disabilities or long-term health conditions.
“It can also assist rehabilitation from surgery or an injury,” it says.
Since opening in March 2011, the group points out that St George’s had helped over 4,500 local people “by providing pain relief, health improvements and freedom from isolation”.
The city council did try to ameliorate the impact of closure with a trial replacement service at Lime Academy Orton but that was latter scrapped.
“Following the closure of St George’s Hydrotherapy Pool, we went to great lengths to find alternative provision in the city for those people who benefit from access to hydrotherapy,” said a statement from the council this summer.
“The Lime Academy was identified, and residents have been able to book sessions there; initially the trial was for three months, but we extended it to try and encourage more people to use the facility.
“Unfortunately, these attempts were in vain, and usage of the pool has been much lower than anticipated, with only around 15 per cent of the sessions booked each week. “
“For example, in April there were 390 available sessions, of which only 45 were used – 11.5 per cent. That means the council had to spend £3,960 subsidising the pool.
“In May there were 510 available sessions, of which only 59 were used – 11.5 per cent. That means the council had to spend £4,392 subsidising the pool.
“It is not the responsibility of the council to provide hydrotherapy services for its residents, and therefore we cannot continue to subsidise sessions at the Lime Academy.”
Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Peterborough, said: “The council’s act of vandalism towards the hydrotherapy pool highlights all that is wrong in politics.
“Where is the ambition, compassion and can-do attitude to fix things and make life better for people?”
Rob Hill, the assistant director for communities, said: “Despite every effort examining the options to reopen St George’s hydrotherapy pool and a detailed specialist survey being carried out, costs have now risen to £278,866.
“Analysis of the options included selling the business, leasing the business, a joint venture with the original owner and a community asset transfer, none of these would prove to be cost effective.”
Maybe the best hope could be the resurrection of plans for a hydrotherapy pool first touted by Thistlemoor Medical Centre but then later withdrawn.
Dr Neil Modha, who is behind the plans, told the Peterborough Telegraph in the summer that he was expecting to re-submit the plans soon.
Last August MP Paul Bristow described the doctor’s proposals for a new £2 million hydrotherapy pool as “really exciting. I shall organise another meeting between Dr Modha and groups including the friends of St George’s so they can input into how services might be delivered”.
The MP has been a long-term supporter of St George’s.
In 2020 the MP met with friends and service users of the St George’s pool.
“Plans have been submitted by the Modha family who run the Thistlemoor Medical Centre. They have my full 100% support.
“The existing pool needs renewal and repair – but I won’t leave a stone unturned to ensure we get a hydrotherapy pool facility in our city.”
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