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Dundee Olympia pools may stay shut until spring 2023

General view inside the Olympia in Dundee
The Olympia swimming pools have been shut.

Dundee’s Olympia swimming pools could be closed until spring 2023, a council meeting has revealed.

A council chief has said corrosion which has forced the closure of Dundee’s Olympia swimming pools may have been known over four years ago.

Speaking at a committee meeting on Monday, executive director of city development Robin Presswood said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the problems had existed for some time.

But he said there would have been a “longer term view” of the problems, centring on the most suitable time to close it.

Depending on when upgrade work starts and the full extent of repairs, it could now be early 2023 before the pools reopen, after it had originally been hoped Olympia would welcome back swimmers in late 2022.
The pools first shut in October after a number of maintenance issues arose.

Claims corrosion not treated

The shock partial closure of the city’s £32m facility — just eight years on from its opening — was being discussed at a meeting of the council’s city development committee.

Councillors were looking for answers as to why the building requires up to £4.5m of repairs — including complete removal of the flumes — despite its young age.

Mr Presswood was responding to a question by councillor Charlie Malone who says he was approached by a “key stakeholder” with knowledge of maintenance within the building.

olympia closed
The Olympia pools are very popular.

Mr Malone says it was suggested to him there was evidence of corrosion as far back as 2017.

Mr Presswood said: “It wouldn’t be a surprise to me that it dates back to 2017.

“There would have been a longer term view of maintenance. There would have been dialogue within Leisure & Culture Dundee [the operators] about the most appropriate time to carry out the upgrading.

“Realistically, you want to minimise the number of times those closures take place, rather than having repeated periods.”

Robin Presswood

Mr Presswood added the problems within the building are purely aesthetic.

He said: “It’s important to say it’s not structural corrosion. It does not in any way damage the integrity of the building.

“It’s cosmetic and the reason we are replacing it [the flumes and light fixings] is because it’s clearly damaging reputationally and affects users enjoyment.”

Spring 2023 reopening possible

It was also revealed the pools may not reopen until as late as spring 2023, depending on when work starts and the full extent of the repairs.

The estimated 45 weeks of work required can only begin after the building is fully assessed and contractors are appointed.

The flumes at the Olympia are popular but now need to be dismantled and repaired.

The pools first shut in October, meaning the full length of the closure period could be as long as a year and a half.

Councillors were given briefings on the issues in private before the public meeting with many in opposition choosing to question officers publicly on why maintenance had not been carried out before now.

Dundee Labour group leader, Baillie Kevin Keenan, tabled an amendment asking for all email correspondence about the property’s condition between the council and Leisure & Culture Dundee between 2013 and December 2021 to be released.

However, the move was defeated by 15 votes to 13.

Fellow Labour councillor Michael Marra has described the move to withhold the documents as “extraordinary” and says they are needed to explain the huge bill.

Fellow Labour councillor Richard McCready meanwhile accused the council of a “lack of transparency and openness”.

John Alexander said comments criticising the council’s transparency are unfair.

Responding, Dundee City Council leader John Alexander, said: “Any suggestion that being complicit or hiding anything is absolute nonsense and very clear to any member of the public, I would suggest.”

He added: “I have been slightly concerned with some of the narrative I have heard this evening.

“I think it’s very clear we are all asking for the same things. We all want answers as to how this arose, what the situation is, how much it will be, and how quickly we can get it back open.”

Why have the Olympia pools been closed?

Concerns first arose at the end of September when light fixings became loose.

Although the light did not fall, a decision was taken to shut the pools while these were assessed and repaired.

However, it was then that other issues within the pool area were discovered, including problems with two curtain wall bolt fixings.

Managers ordered a building-wide survey, revealing even more damage.

There are question marks around why the issues have only now been discovered.

This includes surface and superficial corrosion, draining issues, and damage to all the flumes.

What is wrong with the flumes?

The work needed on the flumes is likely to be the most costly aspect.

The council has not explained how they have deteriorated to such an extent but the report discussed at the committee states they will need to be dismantled.

Scaffolding will be erected for take apart the entire structure on a component by component basis.

These elements will then be moved to another location to allow for refurbishment work and treatment to be carried out.

The report says the “complexity and sequential” nature of this task is a particular challenge.

When will we know more?

The exact cost of all the work is still unknown but the figure quoted so far is somewhere between £3.5m and £4.5m.

The final figure, when established, will be revealed when the contract goes to tender.

“Reactive” maintenance has already been carried out after it was closed, which has cost just under £50,000.

5 questions authorities must answer over Olympia Dundee closure