Protesters demand new swimming pool five years after Ilford baths closed

The site of the old baths in Ilford

The site of the old baths in Ilford - Credit: Archant

Around 50 protesters gathered at the demolished Ilford swimming pool on Saturday to demand new facilities for Redbridge.

The site of the old baths in Ilford

The site of the old baths in Ilford - Credit: Archant

It has been five years since the pool closed in 2008, following a damning health and safety report, despite years of campaigning.

The site of the old baths in Ilford

The site of the old baths in Ilford - Credit: Archant

Plans for leisure facilities at the former site, in Winston Way, and as part of a new Redbridge College building in Seven Kings, have all failed and there are no concrete proposals for a replacement.

Against the backdrop of the rubble of the demolished pool, in High Road, Redbridge Swimmers chairman John Sharrock demanded action from Redbridge Council.

He said: “We have waited for five years and they don’t seem to be doing anything.

“Or if they are, we certainly haven’t heard about it.

“It is a matter of life and death almost, especially whether children are able to swim.

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“We are not happy and we have not been happy for five years.”

Residents of all ages and backgrounds joined swimmers, campaigners and councillors to demand action.

One protestor held a placard reading: “My children learned to swim here – my grandchildren can’t.”

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes learnt to swim at the old Ilford pool as a child.

In a statement read by Cllr Bob Littlewood, he claimed the council had known new facilities were needed “since the 90s” as the 1930s building decayed.

He added: “Our children and people with disabilities and the elderly face a journey of miles to an already overcrowded Fullwell Cross and more than 100,000 people in my constituency no longer have a pool.

“Ilford wants and needs a pool and it is time for Redbridge Council to look to imaginative new ways to provide it.”

In 2003, plans started for a complex in Winston Way, Ilford, with an eight-lane pool, gym, dance studio and sports hall in a 10-storey building.

Despite successful funding bids and a fact-finding mission across Britain, the scheme was scrapped in 2005 when the land was allocated for a school.

A £30million swimming pool and leisure centre was planned in 2007 to replace the Ilford swimming pool on the same site but funding could not be secured.

When Redbridge College was considering moving to the Seven Kings lorry park, they discussed developing leisure facilities with the council.

But after concerns about the cost of relocating, the move never happened and the lorry park is now being inspected again for possible development.