Only tiny new swimming-pool for vast area of Kings Cross

swimming pool

swimming pool (Photo credit: freefotouk)

Few opportunities exist in towns like London to help its residents to get better public facilities.  Usually there is not enough space, or the land is too expensive for such undertakings.

A rare occasion for Camden and Islington residents arose through the redevelopment of former railway owned land at Kings Cross.  So far we have been given a big square with water fountains and a basketball court, the land is big enough to allow for all that, and it would have been big enough to allow for finally (for London) an extra proper athletic swimming pool?  Over two hundred thousand square meters of space, “50 new buildings, 2,000 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 new public squares, 67 acres 8 million square feet, 3.4 milion sq ft of workspace, 500,000 sq ft of retail, 26 acres of public space, 45,000 people (quote from  Kingscross.co.uk website)” that must be be big enough to accommodate 50 metre swimming pool, little in comparison, you would think?

But I have just been told by Camden  that the new swimming pool to be built inside the new Town Hall of Camden at Pancras Square is of a mediocre squeezed 25 metre dimension (plus a lagoon fun pool) the usual size for urban areas that can simply not afford bigger due to lack of space.

Now is Kings Cross Railway Land a squeezed area, without funds?  Hardly!  50 meter swimming facilities are standard elsewhere,  especially on the continent, and they are much needed in London, where young aspiring swimmers have but few pools of proper Olympic measurements.  From next year they can however use the Olympic Aquatic Centre in Stratford.  Not the nearest place to Kings Cross, unless you use that High Speed train going between St. Pancras and Stratford. There is also a cold water lido in Parliament Hill but the temperatures certainly suit not all.

You would think that having gone through the Olympics, developers in London and councils would pride themselves to facilitate the building of more community pools with competition distances, especially on a vast formerly empty development site?  25 square meters (0.2 % of the entire site) for a population that is big enough to be a small town in its own right, is something that is simply not good enough, in my opinion!

And that’s not all.  Normally socially minded urban planners with available space and a swimming pool in mind, would create not just a 50 meter pool  but a whole water leisure land, with whirl pools, saunas, children pools, and water slides in addition to the actual swimming facility.   Whilst I am not sure how big the lagoon pool will be, presumably it won’t be bigger than the bare minimum.

And then soon will come the time when all the land has been built upon and considerations for such facilities are simply impossible and unimaginable.

Why is it that consideration of proper (sized) public facilities are but on the back burner of huge developments such as these, I ask, tiny in comparison and in effect a missed opportunity, especially when Islington are about to refurbish Cally Pool, which is an already existing 25 metre pool in the area?  In an on-line questionnaire we put on this site earlier so far 39.9% argued that they are happy with Cally Pool, but second to that 28.6% agreed they would like to see a 50 meter pool at Kings Cross (see https://kingscrossenvironment.com/2013/09/09/do-you-think-cally-pool-is-a-filthy-dump-2/).  They will be disappointed.

Read also: Wikipedia list of Olympic sized pools in the UK en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_long_course_swimming_pools_in_the_United_Kingdom

Postscript:  Many Thanks to Tom Cole who correct me on the Highspeed Train ( I have since changed that bit in the text).   I have actually asked South Eastern about four times last year after the Olympics if you could still travel from St. Pancras to Stratford, and each time they claimed the service was no longer running and not being reintroduced, hence I was sure it wasn’t existing any longer.  I am really quite delighted it runs again.  This softens the case somewhat, although it is a shame that planners do not think big given so much space!

About Daniel Zylbersztajn

Daniel Zylbersztajn, is since 2012 correspondent to the German independent left of centre daily newspaper taz, die Tageszeitung and Jüdische Allgemeine, and a Pilates Teacher. Born in Germany but also raised in Holland and Israel, he is a long term resident of London Kings Cross (first in 1991), involved parent, local and social activist, and positive lifestyle advocate. He also held posts in research, and conflict work, a.o. for the Palestinian - Israeli peace village Wahat al Salam ~ Neve Shalom. He holds a BA in history and politics from SOAS and two Master degrees, in Urban Sociology (Goldsmiths) and Sports Coaching (Brunel). He is founding and committee member of Coram's Fields User Group, the parent and community voice of Central London's biggest and oldest children playground and was its first spokesperson and chair. Daniel tweets under @zylbersztajn
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18 Responses to Only tiny new swimming-pool for vast area of Kings Cross

  1. anna says:

    I must go back and visit Kings Cross I lived near this station years ago and used the station to go to work.It looks as if it has a really good face lift.I like the brightness around the station years ago it was scary to walk down York way to the station.

  2. Tom Cole says:

    “Unless that Javelin High Speed train from the Olympic days starts going between St Pancras and Stratford again”
    Trains leave St Pancras International roughly every 10 mins and take 5 minutes to Stratford International. They just don’t terminate there anymore
    http://www.highspeed1.com

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      Dear Tom Thank you very much for your welcome correction. See my added postscript and the reviewed text. I was not going to check again, as I have really asked South Eastern quite a few times, twice on the phone, and twice platform staff. How should I know they run it again now? How confusing! I had used the route daily during the Olympics and Paralympics, and when they stopped it, as it seems temporarily, it was quite a disappointment. Do you know when the route restarted, perhaps we should make an announcement here on this blog, I can’t be the only person in the dark?

      • Tom Cole says:

        Certainly completely confusing (mis)information from South Eastern – this service commenced in 2009 !
        High Speed 1 services from St Pancras to Ebbsfleet and Ashford all go via Stratford international. Admittedly, until 2011, you’d get out in the middle of a building site and, with no shopping centre, you’d have to get the DLR to the main stratford station, which was fairly pointless.
        All that changed in 2012 – but the Olympics renamed some trains Javelin service which ran far more frequently and terminated at Stratford. Same trains, same tracks, same stations, just a different name service.
        Things are now back to as they were before. If you read the Wiki entry as below, note the frequency and details under background and domestic high speed services –
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratford_International_station

  3. Diana Shelley says:

    Regarding the swimming pool, I think the key to what you write, Daniel, is in the phrase ‘socially-minded urban planners’. Not the developers, not in Camden’s planning department, and who listened to the poor bloody peasants who lived and worked in King’s Cross when they asked for such things? There are many good things about the redevelopment, but it could have been so much better.

  4. Cabe says:

    Daniel, I think you answer your own point: even with an attempt at a rabble-rousing headline, the majority of local residents are satisfied with Cally Pool. So, whether or not there was public consultation as to whether the new KX development should have added a larger pool, it looks like the planners got it right: there is not a sizeable group that wants one, so it is right that it be a lesser priority than other new things. Frankly I think two large pools (three, if you note that Cally Pool is actually two pools) 400m apart put us in fairly good stead.

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      I totally disagree. As a continental Dutch / German and long standing resident of the UK, who has always got the comparison to Dutch and German cities at hand, I will always highlight the shabby and incomplete ways of British social urban thinking and planning. One of my former home-towns, Munich, has been repeated winner as most liveable city in the world by the respected Monocle magazine (see http://monocle.com/film/affairs/most-liveable-city-munich/) , so I know what is possible if a city wants to invest in architecture for people. It is shameful even of you to suggest this is good enough, and claim that is what the community wants. Just because residents get something does not mean they should shut up. It is window dressing. Would you like to test your notion that people would not rather have a big 50 M pool in a real plebiscite, administered by the electoral commission rather than by on-line clicks, I wonder? Maximise investment in structures and spaces for all people, I say, and the satisfaction of being a resident in these areas grow in parallel. Want to make a saving for people whilst huge sites are being developed, with most going to the private bidder, don’t complain if that is thrown back as being “not good enough.”

      • Cabe says:

        How is it shameful for me to point objectively at the results of your own poll? An honest referendum would be different, I admit: it would require asking ‘of these things which would cost £XX, which would you most like?’ Just because you would like a pool, it doesn’t follow that anyone who disagrees with you is shameful or not a fan of public investment. By the way, I followed your link to see what Monocle thought was great about Munich (a city I also like a lot) – their top 5 are 1) beer gardens 2) Alter Peter 3) river surfers 4) ability to take a 30 minute drive and be in the middle of gorgeous nature 5) art museums. Perhaps we need a fund to enable surfing on Regent’s Canal…

  5. Geoff says:

    So we have pools close by and an Olympic-sized pool just 5mins away by train…what’s your point?

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      Dear Geoff, why do you think Stratford is an appropriate excuse for the omission of using the huge space we had to also create a big public swimming and leisure facility here? Kings Cross to Stratford on the fast line as suggested costs over 11 Pounds return. Your argument would only be valid if residents could use their Oyster cards on that train with standard London charges applying. A 25 m pool would be good for a small hotel or leisure centre cramped in between dense London areas. Given all that development space and the many current and future residents in the area, the issue is farcical. Besides, the council tax-payers in Camden and Islington finance facilities for Camden and Islington, not LBC Newham. Given the long life of such facilities, costs would have been quickly recovered, especially if that pool became popular.

      • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

        At cabe.
        If your understanding of Kings Cross equaly your stereotypical reading of one of Europe’s most livable citie (they check stats on public facilities, crime , amenities, art, leisure facilities, rather than just beer and cars) than I have no hope you will ever understand how cities can become more livable places. Just look what munich offers in terms of swimming: http://www.swm.de/privatkunden/m-baeder/schwimmen.html There is a reason why especially Copenhagen, Munich along with Montreal are consistently in the top 5 cities worldwide. Only Granary Square convinced me so far as anything worth mentioning of the entire kings cross enterprise, bwcazse of its indiscriminate versatility and usability and size.

  6. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    To all doubters that 50m would not have been easily possible (probably for not that much more costs) I invite anyone to walk past the now half finished building. It is gigantically large! Given the space it really is hard to believe that no need assessment was carried out on the question of what type of swimming pool was most needed in this part of London. There are 25 m. pools all around but as mentioned the nearest 50m are in Stratford. Give the amount of space available to developers and the council it is shameful and in the tradition that in Britain new builds are always stingy on total sq/m size (in terms of flats it is the lowest in the Western Europe http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14916580).

  7. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    I have just written on a story from Sport England and learned to my amazement that swimming is now the second most popular sport activity in the UK (2.934.000 people), after going to the gym (4.146.000). It would on these grounds have made sense to go for a bigger pool. What an oversight. The Olympic pool is currently so popular that you have to book in hourly slots. Woudl Camden not have had the same figures? By the way football is no longer the most popular sport. 1.8 m people engage in playing football.

  8. According to the mayor, the new pool and gym facilities will open this June.

  9. It’s a semi-olympic swimming pool. But the lanes are too narrow. Usually they are 2.5 meters each. In this pool, they are set at 2 m. It means that you have to swim paying a lot of attention to what is the style the person coming from the opposite direction is swimming and squeeze yourself towards the rope lane. No room to overtake a slower swimmer. And there’s no fast lane. I’ve looked at where is the problem. The black lines in the middle of the lanes have been squeezed to the left so that the first black line is not in the middle of the disabled access. So it’s a design problem. I think they should still have painted the black lines in the right places, even if the first one collides with the disable access. They should fix this. Repaint the black lines where they should go. Otherwise is too stressful to swim in such a narrow lane. It’s not going to be a popular pool, those lanes can’t hold 25 swimmers at one time, something wider lanes can do. Obviously the architects, KIA, never swam before. And the council didn’t get good advise. But please fix this. I was looking forward to use this pool, but like this? No.

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      They tackled cleanliness though, there is finally constant cleaning. But the two lanes width could truly increase. Given a good design overall, how anyone with planning power would settle on but two small pools on a massive, huge and empty site, nor even a new large local professional sports facility (after all the London Olympics and Paralympicss and their preperation served as reminder) I fail to understand. To the large adjacent communities of Sommers Town and Kings Cross not to speak of adjacent Islington wards, it would have made a huge and for young people especially, a transformative difference. After all for once they minded full wheel chair access, so some good thinking did go on.

  10. Pingback: The issue of the little pool revisted. | Kings Cross Environment

  11. Dhevdhas Nair says:

    I’m surprised and a little disappointed to find that nobody has mentioned chlorine free pools. England is about the last place in the world that still puts this harmful chemical in new swimming pools. For all those suffering from a whole range of common ailments, from skin conditions to thyroid malfunctions, chlorine is a big no-no. And for perfectly healthy people, its not a good choice either if you want to keep that perfect health. So far, unless you can pay large membership fees for private club facilities the only other chlorine free pools I know of are the swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath, and, well, I’m still waiting in vain for a warm enough day this summer….

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