The issue of the little pool revisited.

A year ago we raised the issue of Camden only providing a new swimming pool of the length of 25 meters plus a small hot tub pool.  There clearly was no space, or maybe there was but a lack of imagination?  Funny when you see this photo of the rear of 5 Pancras Square, where currently the foundations of a new building are being dug.

Examine the photo below taken this morning.  It is precisely in that basement that one could have created a longer, more meaningful leisure facility with a bit of will and creative thought, possibly connecting 5 Pancras Square with the new building for the purpose.  I do not think the owners of the building would have said no, if they would have been given free access to that facility.  Granary Square and the basketball court in honour, a big public sport facility would have set a legacy here for decades to come and for 10.000s of people.

It is not too late though, there are more buildings to be constructed, and maybe Argent and its partners can imagine to connect two basements for a more generously spaced sport facility, and maybe, even Islington and Camden could unite budgets for once, to support it, as all their facilities are already managed by the same sport facility group (Better).  Up your game to provide facilities that can be used properly by aspiring athletes and you can attract further support and finance from bodies like Sport England, the Lottery a.o.

2014-10-14 10.15.32

Related:  Only tiny pool for Kings Cross

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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5 Responses to The issue of the little pool revisited.

  1. Well from what I interpreted of the S106 planning document, 5 St Pancras Sq has been paid for by Argent at a cost of around £11m so probably Camden had to accept whatever they were given (for free) as a gesture ‘for the community’ (i.e. the bare minimum possible). I mean all of my friends took a look at 5 St Pancras Sq and thought they are still finishing it, and I have to inform them that it actually IS finished lol Even I was surprised when I first realised that it was the ‘unfinished’ look they were going for.

    Common sense dictates they would have kept the larger site for a more profitable office building. I think what’s done is done and that’s the best we will get. I’m sure they already have plans for the site you are talking about?

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      You are correct. I don’t think there is any hope on the site shown in the photograph, I agree with you there, they must have plans there. But there are empty patches left on the land, and I think the thrust of my message is, but to say, invest much more and larger into the communal, if you have the space. I have some architects as friends, and they all laughed when they learned about the tinniest possible space given for this pool. I am not a pool only campaigner. But to me this represented something beyond asking for a normal sized 50 m pool. How you can have that super huge space available for development, and when it comes to facilities that people can use for sport activities, you choose to go for the sparrow size? Presumably the thinking is that Londoners, cramped in in many other parts of London don’t know and don’t expect better? But the equation forgets that London is a composed of people of many backgrounds and from many areas, and in deed quite a few expect much more. And it fails to consider that the amount of people they are trying to serve in this new space, not just those with flats and apartments but also the new work-forces, will be craving for high quality leisure facilities. Victorians and Edwardians had enough vision to reserve spaces, and built for the communities. You can see it with parks, but also some of the large lidos and gymnasia of the time. How is it, that this foresight has left the heads of planners in England? And it becomes even less understandable when you contemplate that Kings Cross Railway Lands were one of the last few empty templates the central areas London had available, and they managed to do a bad job on that front. By all means build your tower blocks, cramp in people, get luxury apartments and office blocks in, but when it comes to leisure facilities, and mean more than just a square and cinema complex, for goodness sake use the space you have to create something unique and adequate to the numbers of people the area is to serve and something they simply can’t build elsewhere because they do not have the space. That’s my point with the 50 m pool argument I am making.

  2. Bob says:

    The pool was restricted by the footprint of the building it was in, a larger building in a more attractive site would have cost more taxpayers money – as criticism goes this is clutching at straws.

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      @bob, evidently there is an issue with how it was set in this building (alone, a basement facility can go beyond one building, can it not)). And of course t would have cost more, no doubt. But why do you say it is clutching at straws? And why is this only an issue of initial tax-payer’s investment? A building that could have hosted a bigger leisure facility, using the obvious space available, or an inventive design where the basement of several buildings is used, would not only have been suitable to the many new and old residents and Londoners from the entire area, but maximised tax papers return, due to the attractiveness of such a space. The issue does go back to that very important point, there was and still is the space, whilst elsewhere it was not. And, as I argued before, planning a site of that dimension for so many people and offering a pea sized leisure facility on tax papers grounds? What about all the new tax revenue created by all these new tenants and businesses, not withstanding the fact that most of these are private or business and would have paid for access to such a facility. Is that the straw you are talking about, surely it would have been straw that could have been spun to gold?

  3. Unfortunately, I have heard complaints from a friend about gaining access to this pool. He said there is not always a free swim lane (like you get in the YMCA TCR for instance) and apparently you have to book or at least go there between specific times. He is disabled and basically could not find a suitable time after a few tries so just gave up on the centre. I have read in an email from them that they are changing the schedule or something to make it more accessible, so I am hoping more people will be able to use it and it won’t be hogged all the time for school kids or women or whoever else they deem should be segregated.

    One thing I have to laugh about is that the boardings before it was opened stated there would be 2 new pools…well yes there is 1 pool, but the other one is more akin to a paddling pool! It seriously can’t be called a swimming pool and that was truly mis-advertising. I had been expecting something like what is in the Oasis in Covent Garden.

    The big issue I have with the gym in particular is that it is pathetically small and not fit for purpose already. The actual gym area is packed out and overcrowded esp after work and don’t ask me about the queues for people waiting to get booked in at reception just because they want a towel (I think). There are fast entry machines that nobody tends to use despite being simpler to use that a smart phone. People can just get their tickets then demand a towel before they go in – 10m of waiting saved! The stretching area can only accommodate about 7 people and you get these stupid people who think it’s OK to stand there, hog the space and chat to their friends meaning nobody else can use this already preciously small area.

    Frankly, I don’t think Camden or Argent envisaged the majority of people using the gym would be non-KX residents but basically everyone who now works/studies in the area uses the gym. I am not sure what will happen when the whole development is completed as this gym does not have capacity for any more people already. I’m guessing that since this was a sweetener to Camden from Argent (having paid £11m for the whole building), beggers couldn’t be choosers and they accepted anything they got. The main reception area, whilst nice and spacious, is a total waste of space. They could have made it smaller and extended the gym but whatever idiot designed it just made it an inefficient use of space.

    If you go to the classes then they are generally fully booked – which means 30 people in a Pilates class. Ok if it’s spinning or something else, but I used to go to Pilates at the Working Mens College (the teacher, Jackie, is excellent btw) where they had about max 12 students and she was able to go round and make sure nobody would hurt themselves. In the Weds class @ 5 St Pancras with Penny, she told me herself that she does not have time to go round to check people, and something like Pilates (esp Yoga too) NEEDS a teacher to check and adjust you otherwise YOU WILL injure yourself – just like I got sciatica from doing an advanced plank when I should have done a basic one. Also, there is no time for her to teach you the correct way to do the exercises as they all require specific breathing and prep like shoulder blades down etc. It was the worst (and most dangerous) Pilates class I had ever been to. Not Penny’s fault but the centre’s. Needless to say, I am not going back to the class and if every other class in the studios is packed with 30 people then I will have to look for an alternative gym to go to. Oh and the fitness studios, whilst extremely large, lack mirrors on all sides so you can not see what you are doing at points or what the teacher is doing (as someone’s arse is generally in the way lol) – if you are on the floor for example. I had to stop and sit up from most of the floor postures just to check and still often it wasn’t clear as I couldn’t see properly.

    The other annoying thing is that often people will book the class and come class time there are only 10 people there (as happened today in the spinning). They don’t bother cancelling and spoil it for everyone else but this is an issue with the actual sports centre and they need to start charging people for missed classes like they threaten to do when you book, or at least do something like a 3 strikes then you’re out.

    Anyway, that’s my annoyances with the centre out!

    The good thing about joining the gym is that you will be part of the Better scheme and you can actually go to any Better managed council gym in the country without paying more. That gym in particular is NOT worth the £55pm but ‘better’ (no pun intended!) if you are a student (£30) or on DLA (£10 Camden resident/£20 outside). At least you have this option so are not stuck there and frustrated! Better also manage Islington leisure centres so you can go to any of their centres.

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