The two smaller pools at Blackheath have been thrown a lifeline after a last-minute change of heart at the council meeting on Tuesday night.
Council was faced with overwhelming opposition to the proposal to close the toddlers and leisure pools at Blackheath as well as Katoomba’s 50m outdoor pool. The meeting room was packed with supporters of the pools, many holding signs and wearing swimming caps and goggles.
Several speakers exhorted council to find a way to spare the pools. Jennifer Kelly, from the Friends of Blackheath Pool and Memorial Park, asked councillors to consider an alternative engineer’s report on the state of the pool, which offered “practical, cost-efficient solutions”.
Council has been relying on a 2013 structural report which said that the leisure pool is sitting on rock, clay and deep fill, which is “inadequate to support the pool”. It concluded that the pool will “settle differentially over its remaining life” and the life of the pool was five to seven years.
But the Friends asked local engineer Mark Liebman to review that report. He disputed some of its findings and noted that no monitoring had taken place since 2013 so it was impossible to know if the pool had “settled differentially”. Mr Liebman – a pool user - has offered to help council staff set up a monitoring program.
Ms Kelly asked for a meeting with the Friends, engineers, ward 1 councillors and the general manager.
George Vergotis, head of the Blackheath Chamber of Commerce, also opposed closure. He noted that the population of Blackheath, unlike other Mountains towns, is getting younger, with primary school enrolments at an all-time high.
The smaller pools were vital for children learning to swim, he said.
Cr Romola Hollywood declared herself “a swimmer” but said: “Nothing breaks my heart more than this [but] we don’t have endless buckets of money to maintain all our pools.”
Cr Kerry Brown tried to get through an amendment which would have guaranteed that the three pools in question are retained, but it was defeated.
However, another amendment, from Cr Don McGregor, will have council continue to investigate “options to extend the life of the 50m outdoor pool at Katoomba … and the leisure and toddlers pools at Blackheath”. A report on this will be brought back to council by September.
The councillors also agreed to further consultations with stakeholders and will review the technical reports submitted by the Blackheath friends group.