THE closure of the 76-year-old Yiewsley Swimming Pool was confirmed last night (Wed) at a bad tempered council meeting.

Councillor Jonathan Bianco, chairing the meeting, declared the pool officially closed, after listening to one hour's worth of arguments for and mainly against.

His announcement was greeted with cries of 'shame on you' from opposition councillors and elderly residents, many of whom enjoy the pool's 'unintimidating atmosphere'.

The meeting had a bizarre political twist, with Labour councillor for Yiewsley Paul Harmsworth calling on Conservative councillor Bianco to back Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's 'big society' policy, urging him to let the residents apply for funding to run the pool themselves.

The request fell on deaf ears, with Bianco's announcement, stripping the deprived areas of Yiewsley and West Drayton of their only substantial leisure asset.

The closure of the pool in Otterfield Road, Yiewsley, will save Hillingdon Council £32,000 per year in running costs.

This was put forward as a drop in the ocean for the council, especially as local schools will have to spend £8,000 per year each on transporting pupils to either to the new pools in Uxbridge and Hayes.

The argument put forward by the Conservative party, who run Hillingdon Council, was that brand new leisure facilities in Hayes and Uxbridge should compensate for the closure of the pool, which had earlier shut to the public on July 31. Protestors argued this was entirely irrelevant to the communities of Yiewsley and West Drayton.

Backed by Labour councillor Anita MacDonald, they said both of these were only accessible by two bus journeys, and a £3.90 round trip.

Question marks were raised at the solidity of the deal with Hillingdon PCT to build a health centre on the site to bring together three GPs.

Derek Barndem head of corporate property at Hillingdon Council, confirmed that to date, no GPs have signed up to the proposed deal, but added: "We are confident a deal will be agreed, we are part way through negotiations and there are not huge differences between the parties."

In light of the Department of Health announcement that PCT's will be scrapped from 2013, and health decision made by groups of GPs themselves, councillor Paul Harmsworth said: "I can see this falling apart, I do not think the deal will come off, and then the council will be left with the building. It could end up as more one bedroom flats which we do not need in the area."

Fred Clark, who is 73 and disabled and lives in Cowley, said: "I learned to swim at Yiewsley Pool and use it regularly as do many elderly residents. The council leader is the 'older people's champion', he should be defending us, where is our champion tonight?"

Carl Nielsen, from the Yiewsley and West Drayton Action Group, said: "You are shooting yourselves in the foot by dispensing with a facility. I first swam in the pool in 1936, it is unique in that it offers elderly people to swim safely. Older people will not use an Olympic sized swimming pool because it is intimidating.

"1,200 houses are being built in Porters Way in West Drayton, it would be a good investment to keep the pool, it is the only recreation facility we have got, please do not deprive us."

Councillor Dominic Gilham, conservative ward representative for Yiewsley, had spoken up in favour of the ward closure, arguing he did not believe there was enough support to keep the pool open.

The council had discounted 400 of the 1,000 signatures on the petition, citing the reason that the full addresses of the signatories not been left
Lead petitioner Gay Brown, of Otterfield Road, Yiewsley, had requested the meeting be adjourned, to make a more informed decision at a later date.

Closing the meeting Councillor Bianco, the cabinet member for finance and resources, denied this request, saying "The pool is in a dilapidated. state and the passage of time has not been kind to it. I have decided reluctantly I will confirm the closure of the pool."

Angry protestors bellowed 'shame on you' and staged an imprompty protest outside the Hillingdon Civic Centre, with a banner, in front of the mosaic which cost £19,000 to create, over half of the cost of keeping the swimming pool open another six months.

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