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1st February 2013

Manchester’s Olympic legacy of sports facility closures

Plans to close Withington Baths and other local facilities have been met with strong opposition from the local community

Plans to close Withington Baths and other local facilities have been met with strong opposition from the local community.

A flashmob outside Withington Baths on Sunday 27th January was attended by a number of residents and key figures, including local DJ Dave Haslam.

In a bid to save £80m from the Council’s budget, Withington Baths is not the only facility to face closure; four other pools are listed in the proposal, and six libraries, including Fallowfield.

Campaigners have set up a Facebook page, Twitter accounts, and e-Petitions which have received over a thousand signatures and counting for the various causes.

“Is this the Olympic legacy, Manchester?” asks Sian Astley, business owner and former student who lives opposite Withington Baths. “This is our building, it doesn’t belong to Manchester City Council; this is the community’s building, the community’s land.

“It’s not just a pool that’s being closed, it’s actually an integral part of the community.”

Ms Astley spoke to The Mancunion of the massive impact losing this facility would have on the local community, from children to the elderly. “I’ve been meeting people who’ve been swimming here for 70 years. I’ve met ladies who’ve had breast cancer and been treated at the Christie Hospital who credit the pool here with helping them get back to full health.”

Manchester City Council have proposed to build a new £10m facility in Hough End to replace the Withington and Chorlton Baths. There has been criticism that this is a u-turn on Labour campaign promises to open a joint library and leisure facility in Chorlton centre.

Organiser of the flashmob protest Jill Woodward is a retired Withington librarian. “I have swam in this pool over a 35 year period, and I’m currently training here for a triathlon.

“Elderley people that walk and swim will not make it down to Hough End.”

She added that the building itself has historic importance. “I just love the architecture, why get rid of it? There could be ways that the roof could be dealt with and keep this lovely facility in the community rather than knocking it down.”

There is uncertainty over what the Council plan to do with the building and the land should it be closed after the three week consultation period.

“All the children at the schools will suffer,” Ann Gerraghty, mother of two children that attend Cavendish Primary School. “They walk up here every Tuesday for their swimming lessons, then walk back to school. They’ve got to keep it open.”

Lib Dem Councillor for Chorlton, Victor Chamberlain, has opened a petition to save Chorlton Baths. “Many people come to Chorlton to go swimming and support our shops afterwards. I’m worried the Council’s proposals could also hurt Chorlton’s independent traders as there will be significantly less footfall.”

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