Save St Mary's pool, Imperial College London

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Imperial College London have taken the decision to close the swimming pool at St Mary’s Campus this summer after 80 years, citing the need for cost savings across campus services.

With no prior warning or consultation senior decision makers at Imperial College and Sport Imperial have announced the closure of the popular swimming pool due to financial reasons and the supposed low usage amongst Imperial staff and students.

Not only is this decision deeply disappointing, short-sighted and unjust but it is also directly opposed to Sport Imperial’s current strategy of promoting mental and physical wellbeing amongst the college community, encouraging participation and access to sporting and health facilities at all levels.

Serving the community for the last 80 years St Mary’s pool is a vital asset to a wide cross section of students, staff, sports groups, former employees and students, local school groups, local church groups and the wider local community.

The pool is a vital asset not only for its health benefits but also for boosting mental wellbeing amongst users and has hosted many sports groups including the synchronised swimming and water polo teams, who were recently relocated to the South Kensington campus. Established in 1930 as a facility to support students keen to stay fit, the pool also boasts developing the talent of international sporting stars.

It is difficult to reconcile Sport Imperial’s current strategy with the decision to close the pool, which is one of the last remaining sporting facilities at St. Mary’s Campus. Their assertion that maintenance of the pool is financially unsustainable contrasts with offers of increased funding from local schools that regularly use the pool which have been declined. Furthermore Sport Imperial did not attempt to raise money by any other means, for example through extended opening hours, increased membership fees or by allowing the pool to be used by Imperial’s many student societies and sports clubs.

Existing alternative facilities available to users at South Kensington and other College campuses are already at maximum capacity and are not a viable or practical option for the St Mary’s community. This proposed solution would also not help members of the public, or NHS staff based at St. Mary’s, on whom the college depends for its medical teaching and world-class research.

There are many research benefits of Imperial College maintaining a campus alongside St. Mary’s Hospital. While it may be convenient for Sport Imperial to centralise its facilities in South Kensington, the decision to close this much-loved pool, echoing an earlier move to close the squash courts and sports hall housed at Wilson House, suggests that staff and students at St. Mary’s are at best an after thought and at worst an inconvenience, for whom the benefits of working and studying at Imperial College do not apply.

A campaign group made up of regular pool users from Imperial, the NHS, local schools and the wider community has been set up to fight this move for closure.  Please support our campaign and save our pool.

Danny Laydon, Research Associate in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology states "I have used St. Mary’s Pool throughout my PhD and post-doctoral research, during which time it has been a wonderful resource and a hugely positive factor in my work life balance and health. It has also helped my mental wellbeing at times of family crisis, and other users have told me that it has been a source of similar comfort to them. I strongly believe that the pool has increased my productivity, and it being in the same building has made it easy and fun to exercise (it also provides a much-needed incentive to work on a Saturday). Through swimming at St. Mary’s, I have made friends from outside my own department and had the rare pleasure of participating in a shared experience with the wider community. The decision to close the pool is deeply sad, short-sighted and disheartening. I hope that Sport Imperial reconsider".

Postgraduate student Sophie Korenhof agrees "the swimming pool at St Mary's is a good place to rest your mind in between study hours. It being so close is a big advantage, at South Kensington the pool can be quite busy".

Nathan Godleman a pool users based locally to Paddington concurs “I have been using the pool regularly for nearly a year now. It is a special place and a real community facility. Over eighty years of continuous use! How much good it has done and continues to do for so many! Why threaten to close it now?”

We the undersigned strongly oppose the closure of the pool at St Mary’s Campus, Imperial College London. We request that Sport Imperial reverse their decision and consult with St Mary’s Campus management to find sustainable ways to fund the facility and expand its use.

Please also read the article in Felix: http://felixonline.co.uk/articles/2018-02-01-petition-launched-to-save-st-mary-s-swimming-pool/



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