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Tag: Forest Hill Pools

Forest Hill pools – what’s it going to look like?

The exciting new pool development at Forest Hill, due to open in December 2012, is currently going through the planning process. So what new facilities are going to be provided and what does the building look like?

The new pools complex will include the following:

  • a 25m x 13m main pool
  • a 16.7m x 7m learners’ pool
  • a 9m x 8m meeting space/multipurpose room
  • a 11.5m x 15.6m studio
  • a fitness studio, which (judged by the number of equipment “stations”) will be the biggest in the borough
  • a cafe

And here are some external views of the building:

Front view
Area view
Aerial views
Front view

Louise House – a journey into Forest Hill’s Victorian past

What was life like for destitute girls in the late nineteenth century? How did Louise House inspire a visiting paediatrician from Poland? Could the building find a new community use in the 21st century?

Louise House used to be a Girls’ Industrial Home providing care for destitute girls whilst they learnt skills (there is a laundry block to the rear of the building.) The foundation stone was laid by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, in 1890. Built in the domestic revival style, it is highly decorated externally but it has a utilitarian interior retaining the original floor plan.

It also has links with Janusz Korczak, the Polish/German/Jewish paediatrician, children’s author and martyr whose visit to Louise House in 1911 inspired him to devote his life to the enlightened care of children.

He founded an orphanage in Warsaw, implementing many of the ideas he’d seen in practice at Louise House. On the morning of 6 August 1942, German soldiers herded the orphanage staff and 192 children towards the railway station with Korczak at their head. The group was forced onto a train bound for Treblinka extermination camp. That is the last that was heard of them.

The pdf below looks at the history of Louise House and plans for its future. Research by Steve Grindlay; documentation by Tim Walder; design and recent photography by Hilary Satchwell

Louise House exhibition boards

Forest Hill Pools – latest news

The second meeting of the Forest Hill Pools Stakeholder Group chaired by Cllr Chris Best took place on May 15th. The following notes were taken by Penelope Jarrett of the Forest Hill Society, with some extra info from Annabel McClaren of the Sydenham Society.

Hilary Renwick (lead officer) presentation
The Council website has recently been remodelled to make it easier to follow the story. All relevant documents should be available at this link, which is continuously updated. The stakeholder group will not be the only people consulted. There is also an email group of interested people, and public exhibitions are planned.

David Booth (senior project manager) presentation
The Council has identified £7.5 million from its own internal budgets for the project. This does not rely on government nor any other grants for building.

The project will include housing. They have asked HLM (architects) to look at 3 different scenarios: high, medium and low density housing, with the intention of raising about £2 million. Housing would not be built until the Pools building is finished – unless a high density option were agreed in which case it would be likely to intimately involve the leisure facility building, which would mean it would have to be built at the same time. Construction inflation is about 6% p.a., so the longer the delay in building the less will be got for the sum available. They intend that it be a Council-led project, and so it differs from other Private Finance Initiative projects (PFIs) where they have had commercial partners (e.g. FH school). It is planned that the leisure centre will contain a 25m x 6 lane pool, a learner pool, dry leisure activities, green space and other community facilities.

Initial Design and Feasibility

  1. Decommisioning – done
  2. The nursery in Louise House will probably vacate in August
  3. The historical surveyor has visited this week, and his report will be shown to stakeholders and other consultees. They are happy for him to meet with local historian Steve Grindlay, and agree that objects of no national importance may be of local importance. They have some idea of where they might store salvaged material. Report expected within 4 weeks of the visit.
  4. Plan to demolish in August. Apparently it is costing £100,000 p.a. in security and power to keep the building up. They are not happy to board up the building and to leave it unmanned.
  5. Initial design activity: HLM has been appointed and have begun initial design work (see below for more on this). The plan is then to review outcomes, incorporate stakeholder feedback, produce an elemental cost plan, then consult more widely on these in June, probably via an exhibition in FH Library. This will then go to Mayor and Cabinet in July, i.e. before the planned demolition.
  6. Role of stakeholders: see below
  7. OJEU [the EU-wide procurement procedure] competition for design and build, and architects to be appointed – notice was sent out at the end of April and they have already had 45 expressions of interest. The competition would then be run. They hope to reach RIBA stage D and appoint a CDM coordinator in July 2008.

The rest of the timetable is:

  • Sept-Oct 2008: get planning permission
  • Nov 2008: RIBA stage E
  • March 2009: appoint principal contractor
  • July 2009: start construction
  • March 2011:open building

There was some discussion about this last date, as it is later than the timetable discussed previously. On looking at the overall timetable, David Booth could not see why it had been made later. The councillors were not happy about a possible change of completion date. An architect, representing the Laurel Bank residents, felt it was an optimistic timetable.

Role of stakeholder group:

  • To represent the community
  • To communicate community requirements – a “wishlist” (see below)
  • To provide feedback during design and programme development

The group is not fixed, others may join at different times and current members were invited to think if there was anyone else we should be inviting. Suggestions were: representatives from the PCT (re possibility of hydrotherapy for example), and from the local schools who may swim there.

Initially these mainly concerned the timetable, it being felt important that there be no demolition until after consultation on designs. It was also not clear to most of those there why it had to cost so much to maintain an empty building. It was not clear how the promise to consider the design proposal retaining the current Victorian buildings (Louise House and the frontage block of the Pools), raised by a Sydenham Society member, would fit into the overall timetable.

HLM initial thoughts:
The design brief included consideration of the Urban Design Analysis (as in the Supplementary Planning Guidance for Forest Hill) and the concept of a “gateway” from Forest Hill, continuation of the building line of the library, allowing views of the library, the retention of trees and a green line of approach in front of Kingswear House to the Pools. Most of those present seemed to think these were important considerations. A drawing from HLM was shown to us in confidence, which sparked a lot of discussion. This concerned good and bad aspects of the draft design itself – there are some of each: it very basically fulfils the considerations set out above, and includes the basic pools plus dry leisure and a multi-purpose room, but was only one storey and the frontage seemed untidy, using up a lot of space on a small site. One architect present did not like the frontage. We also discussed how housing might be fitted onto the site, and the possibility of utilising some of the space around Kingswear House, especially at the back of the building. The garages are apparently well used. Could parking be provided elsewhere? There was also discussion of parking around the Pools themselves. Underground car parking is apparently extremely expensive, and on a small site does not save much space because of the access ramps. Apart from disabled parking and coach drop-off for schools (there is already one such site in Thorpewood Avenue), there was some feeling that there should be no or minimal parking to discourage car use. Not everyone thought this feasible.

The officer’s plan seemed to be to ask HLM to come up with 3 designs for high, medium and low density housing, but all based on the draft Pools building presented to us. I asked if it would not be possible to ask the architects to do some different draft drawings, and then ask us which we felt should be worked up in more detail, but the officers seemed to think this was not possible.

Hilary Renwick has the list sent to her by the Forest Hill Society. She said popular items were:

  • Community room/meeting room/performing space
  • Music room/recording facilities (Platform 1 facility being lost?)
  • Creche/play area
  • Adult teaching

Other thoughts included:

  • Hydrotherapy
  • Sustainability/green issues regarding energy use by the facility
  • Climbing wall
  • Disabled access over and above DDA compliance
  • Café

She asked we contact her or Annette Stead with further ideas, or any requests for information.

Forest Hills Pools – the three options

On February 5 Lewisham officers presented the Pools stakeholders’ group with the outcome of the feasibility study into the future of the pools. The study was undertaken at the request of the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, after the Council’s initial plans had been derailed last August due to the listing of Louise House by English Heritage.

The Council’s new thinking is contained in the following three options:

Option 1
The first option is for a complete demolition of the Pools’ frontage block (the Superintendent’s House) and for a new building in its place incorporating a leisure centre and housing. This scheme would have an entrance facing east (towards Forest Hill station) and would be accessed via the green space in front of Kingswear House. The scheme is a variation on those submitted by HLM architects last summer and retains many of its design features. However, the officers stated that it was unlikely to gain approval as 1) it incorporates housing – and this will be difficult to ‘deliver’ in the current financial climate; and 2) it will be unlikely to satisfy English Heritage who will have to be consulted about any new development adjacent to Louise House (now Grade 2 listed). In addition, a review of the Forest Hill town centre conservation area is currently being undertaken and may well be extended to include the north side of Dartmouth Road up to and including Holy Trinity School.

Option 2
In this scheme the Pools’ frontage block is retained and a new pools building is built behind and to the side – taking up approximately half the pocket park. Although the scheme (by Allies & Morrison) is only ‘indicative’ (ie. showing what is possible on the site, rather than a finished design) its features include a ‘wavy’ roof sloping down towards Derby Hill Crescent and skylights. The scheme does not include housing – instead, the Council are looking at their empty depot site in Willow Way as a possible site for housing which would provide a cross-subsidy to finance the new leisure centre. However, officers pointed out that in order to achieve this, the site would have to be re-designated in planning terms from ‘employment’ to ‘residential’ which could be a complex and lengthy process.

Option 3
The third option is to build a new pool on the Willow Way site. As pools and leisure centres provide employment, the land would not require a re-designation. The advantage is that the site is empty and immediately available and a new complex could be built relatively swiftly. In a scheme submitted by Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects, Louise House and the Pools’ frontage block would then be converted into housing with new housing to the rear. Dartmouth Road would be a prestigious site and would attract maximum housing receipts once developed.

The Sydenham Society’s response
Having looked carefully at the three options, the Sydenham Society has decided to support Option 2 along with both the Forest Hill Society and the Save the Face of Forest Hill campaign. The Forest Hill Society has expressed its strong preference for Option 2 as it brings swimming and leisure back to Forest Hill and maintains the ‘civic focus’ of the Dartmouth Road group of buildings. The reintroduction of these facilities will help regenerate both Forest Hill town centre and Dartmouth Road – in serious decline since the Pools closed. Additionally, Option 2 will provide Dartmouth Road with a building informed by high quality contemporary design. As the architects of the extension to the Horniman Museum, Allies & Morrison are not only skilled at combining historic buildings with contemporary structures but they know Forest Hill and the surrounding area. A further point made by the Forest Hill Society is that the Willow Way site could be developed for some form of employment-led mixed use, possibly in the form of live-work units (apparently these are now more commercially viable than residential apartments). Lewisham is about to consult on its Core Strategy/Local Development Framework (the successor to the UDP) and re-designation of the site to residential could be addressed as part of this process.

The Mayor will make his decision on the three options at the Mayor & Cabinet meeting on February 25.

All three options and supporting material can be viewed on Lewisham’s website at:

Forest Hill Pools face uncertain future

Too many pools…
In 1994 BP gave the private sports club that it no longer required to Lewisham Council. This is now known as the Bridge Leisure Centre. In 1996, using the argument that they had too many swimming pools, Lewisham took the decision to close Forest Hill Pools.

3 Month Campaign
News reached local residents who turned up to the Leisure Services Committee meeting where the decision was taken. The three-month campaign to Save Forest Hill Pools, supported by Sydenham Society, started immediately. There were many arguments as to why Forest Hill Pools should remain open and the communities of Forest Hill and Sydenham came together to defend their heritage.

Councillors shouted down
There was a groundswell of local protest culminating in a public meeting chaired by then local councillor Steve Bullock at which the councillors and officers were shouted down – a peaceful if highly vociferous protest at which the police were present in case of violent disorder!

Downham Pool collapses
By June 1996 the council had overturned its decision – probably assisted by the collapse of the roof at Downham Pool!

Another public consultation
In May this year there were no 120th birthday celebrations for the oldest pools in London. Lewisham was once again talking about a consultation on their future. A public meeting on 5 October at Sydenham School, chaired by the same Steve Bullock, this time as Mayor, was the start of this consultation. About 150 residents turned up to the meeting, most of them pool users. 2 options were outlined:

  • Refurbishment (leading to a possible extension of 10 years of the life of the existing pools)
  • Demolition and a new building with only one pool (with a 60 year life expectancy).

Mike Peart of Capita, the group who will build the new pools, pointed out that there was a crack in the fabric of one of the pools, which may or may not be serious and that, of course, a building of this age could fail at any time.

Financial constraints
There was a council imposed financial constraint of £4.7m for the new building with, strangely, only £4.1m for refurbishment. Local residents were told the reason for the financial constraint was because Lewisham is building a new pool at Wavelengths at Deptford, and the pool at Downham is nearing completion. Another pool in Lewisham Town Centre is also to be built.

Unanimous call for 2 pools
A well mannered meeting left the Mayor, local councillors and officers with a unanimous understanding that 2 pools are required – a new 25m, 6 lane replacement pool is not flexible enough to maintain the current usage. There are acknowledged problems with the current building, but it is loved locally and a refurbishment would appear to be the only option acceptable. As someone said, lose one pool and you have lost it for good. Certainly retaining and refurbishing the present building and giving it 10+ years of life buys time – there may be additional cash for further improvement a year or so down the line.

14 months closure at least
Whichever option chosen it will necessitate the pools being closed for at least 14 months.

The Sydenham Society’s position
Refurbish the best option
The Sydenham Society supports the option to refurbish. It was quite obvious at the public meeting that local residents want to retain two pools. The loss of a much loved landmark building that has served the community so well for 120 years must be fought.

Listed Library could be under threat
The Society is also concerned about the future of Louise House, the Victorian building between the Pools and Library, should the Pools be demolished. The Library is listed Grade 2 but neither of the other buildings have any protection.

Loaded leaflet
The leaflet being delivered through 45,000 doors is quite clearly loaded in favour of the option to demolish the existing building and rebuild a leisure centre with one pool, and its wording should be questioned. It is not difficult to see that Lewisham Council clearly wants a rebuilt pool and would more than likely take the opportunity to redevelop the whole site. The council needs to explain its position on this matter.

Lewisham has a poor reputation for its handling of Leisure Centres. The Downham Pool is due to open at the end of next year, well behind schedule and over budget. Ladywell Pool had a s1.8m refit some two years ago and within 6 months the council announced its closure in 2007 so that the site could be used for a new school. There is currently a big protest going on by Ladywell Pool users as the new pool for Lewisham Town Centre planned as a replacement is not due to open until 2010 (if then).

Forest Hill Pools – what next?

Little has been heard since from the Council since the listing of Lousie House, and stakeholders are not to be involved officially until sometime next year. However, we believe the council’s ring-fenced £7.5m could attract interest from architectural practices that would be happy to work in partnership with Lewisham to provide swimming and leisure facilities that we can all be proud to use in Forest Hill.

Last February, following a prolonged and intrusive survey, Lewisham Council reported that Forest Hill Pools could not be refurbished at reasonable cost and with a guaranteed reasonable shelf-life and it was announced that a new facility with a pool and a learner pool would need to be built. The Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, confirmed that a capital sum of £7.5m had been ring-fenced for new facilities and publicly committed to retaining swimming facilities at Forest Hill.

During the early summer the council’s chosen architects (HLM) worked up three “indicative” options all of which involved the demolition of Louise House and the Pools buildings. These included swimming pools, a leisure/fitness suite and housing of differing densities intended to cross-subsidise the level of facilities the local community demanded.

Despite requests to include an option that maintained the existing frontage of the pools the council pressed ahead with their basic designs and at the beginning of August (the school holidays) went out to public consultation. This consultation was poorly conducted and carried out in a particularly hit and miss way – some local residents living close to the pools only receiving their questionnaires on the morning of the first day (of two) of a public exhibition. Local councillors together with the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies insisted there should be a public meeting as part of the consultation process and this took place on 21 August.
However on 19 August we learned that a request to English Heritage for the listing of Louise House by a local resident had been successful. Louise House was granted Grade ll status and the plans to demolish the building were scuppered.

The public meeting of 21 August was well attended and many asked that the council’s Leisure Services officers return to the drawing board and prepare a feasibility study which would also look at the possibility of retaining the Pool’s frontage block (the Superintendent’s House) in order to “Save the Face of Forest Hill” as demanded by an active and vocal group of campaigning residents, representing 2,000 petitioners.

At a full Mayor and Cabinet meeting in September the Mayor tasked the Leisure Services officers with providing a full feasibility study to include the option of retaining the existing façade, and to examine how facilities could be developed on site without using the space occupied by the newly listed Louise House. The officers are expected to report back to the Mayor by January. Both the Sydenham and Forest Hill Societies believe that the best (and fastest) route to the delivery of a good building is via an architectural competition and such a building will need to be in harmony with its existing neighbours (Holy Trinity School, Forest Hill Library and Louise House, all of which are Grade ll listed) and will need to have the approval of English Heritage before planning permission is given.

Members of the Sydenham Society will continue to attend the Council’s Stakeholder Group, which has met on three occasions this year, to discuss the future of the pools. The Society is keen to see an early resumption of swimming at Forest Hill and will work with the council and other stakeholders to try to ensure this happens. It will not be easy in the current financial climate, but we believe the council’s ring-fenced £7.5m should attract interest from architectural practices that would be happy to work in partnership with Lewisham to provide swimming and leisure facilities that we can all be proud to use in Forest Hill.

A footnote to the above. Strangely, while the Leisure Services Department was working on plans for the demolition of both Louise House and the Pools building, it became known that Conservation Officers in Lewisham’s Planning Department had commissioned a review of the Forest Hill Town Centre Conservation Area. It is understood that this review, to be published early next year, will recommend the extension of the Conservation Area to include the Pools and Louise House buildings. One may wonder, and only Lewisham Council can explain, why it is that one council department is intent on the demolition of the same two buildings that another Council department is considering including within an extended Conservation Area?

History of Forest Hill Pools

Written by Steve Grindlay

Forest Hill Pools are, almost certainly, the oldest substantially intact working baths to survive in the London area. Although they nearly didn’t make it, they have survived to celebrate their 120th anniversary this year. The Earl of Dartmouth opened them on Saturday 2nd May 1885.

The foundation stone was laid a year earlier, in a tent erected on the site. For this ceremony 1700 school children marched along Dartmouth Road to the tent, where they were each given a bun and an orange.

The pool’s origins can be traced back to 1846, when the Baths and Wash-Houses Act empowered local authorities to raise money for such buildings. The Lewisham Vestry was slow to respond, for it was not until 1882 that they decided to use these powers, and appointed seven commissioners to obtain funds and land, and to build two swimming pools with public baths. The commissioners found their two sites; one in Ladywell and one Forest Hill. From 1819 the large plot of land on which the Swimming Pools, Louise House, Forest Hill Library and Holy Trinity School now stand had been glebe land, used to provide income for the vicars of Lewisham. Fortunately, in 1882, the vicar of Lewisham was Hon Canon Augustus Legge, one of the pools commissioners, and he made part of this plot available “at a price much lower than other land about”.

The architects appointed for both the Ladywell and Forest Hill pools were Wilson and Aldwinckle. Thomas Aldwinckle (1845-1920) lived in Dacres Road (co-incidentally, on the site of Hennel Close, named after Alexander Hennell, who designed Forest Hill Library) from the mid-1880s for about twenty years. In addition to the pools Aldwinckle designed Louise House, the Boys’ Industrial Home in Perry Rise (demolished a few years ago) and the Brook Hospital and Water Tower at Shooters Hill.

Today, with Ladywell Pools derelict and Louise House empty and under threat, Forest Hill Pools takes on an added significance as the only surviving, functioning building in the borough, by this local architect.
Two men, of very different temperament, did more than any others to bring about the creation of the pools: Theophilus William Williams and Augustus Legge. Williams was of modest origins, working his way up from messenger to bank manager (of what was later Barclays, now ACTS Credit Union in Kirkdale). He then entered local politics, where again he was successful, becoming Lewisham’s first mayor in 1900. He fell from grace, committing suicide on the day he was due to face charges of fraud and embezzlement. The Hon Augustus Legge, on the other hand, was a younger son of the Earl of Dartmouth. He was vicar of St Bartholomew’s 1867-1879 then became vicar of Lewisham until 1891 when he was appointed Bishop of Litchfield. Williams or Legge was involved in almost every major local project (Mayow Park, Wells Park, Children’s Hospital, Industrial Homes, libraries) undertaken during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the pools. There were those who considered spending ratepayers’ money on such a project an unjustified extravagance. The Commissioners were keen to point out to that, at £9,000, the building was remarkable value for money. The pools were described as “the cheapest for the accommodation afforded, as well as the handsomest, in the United Kingdom” and The Builder said, “Unnecessary expense and all extraneous ornament have been most carefully avoided … the architects have succeeded very well in giving a certain degree of picturesque effect to buildings of a generally plain and practical character”. In today’s terms, the building would have cost about £600,000.

The pools provide a vivid illustration of the rigid class system in Victorian England. One of the commissioners said that the baths would promote “the comfort and health of the people” reducing “poverty, crime and many evils. The more they promoted healthy exercise the more virtuous the people would become”.

The architects’ plans show that there were two entrances to the building. To the left of the present ticket office was the entrance for “1st class males”, who had their own waiting room and their own pool (the left-hand pool). This was mirrored on the right side, where “2nd class males” had their own ticket office, waiting room and pool. Even today, filtered water, using the original filters, flows first to the left-hand pool before flowing into the right! Women seemed to have been an afterthought, not able to use the main entrance but having their own, on the right side of the building, where the “females ticket office” still survives. There was very definitely no mixed bathing; men could use the pools morning and evening, while women used them during the day. Later, Tuesdays and Fridays were set aside for women. There were also private baths (called slipper baths, for washing), 10 for 1st class customers and 20 2nd class. The 2nd class baths were in the room now used by the fitness centre.

The 1st class baths were on the left side of the entrance, and still retain a couple of the cubicles, although without the baths. Surprisingly, the private baths were not segregated. This was so that all who wanted could have a bath every day of the week.

It was intended that during the quiet winter months from November to April the pools would close for swimming. The 1st class pool would be boarded over, and used as a public hall for meetings, concerts and bazaars.

This continued until the 1950s or later. Indeed, in 1951 Clement Atlee used a political meeting at the pools to announce that Britain needed to re-arm in order to meet the threat to our way of life from the Soviet Union.

We have at least one famous swimmer associated with the pools. Linda Ludgrove, who lived in Eddisbury House, Sydenham Hill and went to Sydenham School, trained in the pools in the evenings, after they were closed to the public. She won several Commonwealth Games gold medals, and broke five world records between 1962 and 1967.

The future of the building is not secure. We have been assured that there will be a public consultation exercise in June, to find out what users and other residents would like for the pools. It is vital that all those who care about them either as a valuable resource, an important part of our townscape or even for what they tell us about the social history of the area, make their feelings known.

The Future of Forest Hill Pools

As our last newsletter went to press in mid-February there was news that the Mayor and Cabinet had taken the decision to demolish the existing buildings and build a new two-pool facility on the site of the Pools and Louise House complex, and that they had committed to consulting with local groups and residents with regard to the design. There was also a commitment to integrate some of the features of the existing pools building into the design.

Since that time there has been one “Stakeholder meeting” on 17 March at which members of the Sydenham Society were present, along with members of the Forest Hill Society, to hear Lewisham Council officers outline the schedule of redevelopment.

A further meeting is planned for 15 May, after this newsletter deadline.

The timetable includes demolition of the whole site in July, although it is admitted this date is likely to slip as a nursery, currently using part of the rear of Louise House, will need to be relocated first.

The concerns of a large number of people about retaining the Victorian streetscape, by possibly converting the existing brick built buildings into residential property, are not included in the Council’s plans, despite the statement in Lewisham’s Supplementary Planning Guidance for Forest Hill (March 2003) which says: “The Library and Pools complex need to be addressed in terms of celebrating these important buildings, creating a special place and providing improved amenity for the local community.”

English Heritage has also stated that: “They (the Pools) make a positive contribution to the streetscape and along with Holy Trinity School, Forest Hill Library and Louise House form a distinct group of buildings which reflect the Victorian enthusiasm for education and health reform.”

Members attending the recent Sydenham Society Annual General Meeting were shown ideas for two new pools, a refurbished Louise House and Superintendent’s House (the frontage block of the swimming pool), a public square and residential housing which would help cross-subsidise the pools/leisure facility. There was an overwhelming majority in favour of these ideas which have been put to the council for consideration.

The council say that they are committed to good design for the replacement of all buildings on this important town site, a focal point for Forest Hill, and have earmarked £7.5m for the redevelopment of two pools (a 25m 6-lane pool, and a learner pool), together with a fitness suite. A cross-subsidy of £2m from sale of development land does leave a question in many minds about how much £9.5m can buy in terms of quality design.

The council say that housing on this site could be of high, medium or low density, but as yet there is no indication of what this means in terms of numbers of residential properties, nor of the type of housing, ie high or low rise, also one, two or three bedroom units.

The services are currently being decommissioned and the pools are being drained. Design and feasibility work is underway and a historical survey with a view to retaining some of the original features (the keystone and the griffins) and incorporating these into the new building is also underway. A local public consultation is planned for June at Forest Hill Library. However, there will be no designs available before the planned demolition takes place, which leaves many local residents concerned about what might eventually be planned. A design competition before the pools are demolished has been ruled out as the project is deemed to be too small to justify such a venture.

The Sydenham Society will continue to campaign for the retention of the Victorian buildings which we believe are an important part of the Forest Hill streetscape and which, converted and refurbished will, we believe, provide a sustainable use for these sound structures which have played such an important part in the social history of the area for over 120 years.

Forest Hill Pools back on the agenda

Since the pools were closed on health and safety grounds in March 2006 there has been little information about what was happening inside. We were told that an “intrusive survey” was being carried out before the promised refurbishment, which was due to start in early 2008.

As we go to press a report by council officers about the future of Forest Hill Pools has been tabled and is due to go to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 13 February. The report indicates that both pools are severely cracked across their entire width and water leakage has been measured at 3627m3 per annum, equivalent to 10 times the water volume of the main pool. The implication is that the officers consider refurbishment of the existing building, to allow a reasonable lifecycle of 20 years, is not economic.

Other options have been put forward. One is to consider retaining the existing frontage and, behind the existing façade, build a new 25m pool and a learner pool together with a fitness suite. An alternative is to demolish the existing building together with Louise House and provide a complete new build leisure centre with 25m pool, learner pool and fitness suite and a “community facility”. The third choice is to demolish the whole complex and provide a “dry” leisure centre alongside an adult learning centre.

There has been virtually no opportunity for the local community to digest or respond to the officers’ report before it goes to the Mayor and Cabinet. However, the Sydenham Society has requested that the wider community be fully informed of the reasons for the report and kept involved in all processes from now on.

We believe that representatives of the community and user groups should be involved in the selection of architects and a “Planning for Real” exercise should be undertaken at the earliest stage to inform the designers of the hopes, dreams and fears of the community in regard to the development of Forest Hill Pools and Louise House. This, we believe, would help to achieve the best possible outcome for the provision of a great swimming pool facility that preserves the character of Forest Hill’s architectural heritage and includes the local community in the process.

Furthermore we think that public money (perhaps £5000 from the Localities Fund) should be used to employ the expertise of reputable conservation architects to prepare a report on how the much of the original architecture can be saved/integrated/ salvaged/for use in the proposals for a new/refurbished building on the pools and Louise House site.

Pools latest:
We have learned that the Mayor and Cabinet have taken the decision to demolish the existing buildings and build a new two-pool facility on the site of the Pools and Louise House. They have committed to consulting with local groups and residents with regard to the design and there is also a commitment to integrate some of the features of the existing pools building into the new design.

It is hoped that work will begin at the beginning of 2009, after the design and tender process, and that the new pool will be ready in the summer of 2010.