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Dundee Olympia pool closure: Council chiefs admit timescale for work has already slipped

There is uncertainty over when the Olympia will reopen.
There is uncertainty over when the Olympia will reopen.

The timescale for fixing major issues at Dundee’s Olympia swimming pools has already slipped, council chiefs have admitted.

The leisure centre pool has been shut since October after an initial issue with a light fixing uncovered a series of longstanding problems with the building.

Dundee City Council initially estimated the leisure centre pool would be shut until late 2022, with 45 weeks’ worth of work needed.

That was then adjusted to spring 2023.

But it has now emerged that that it could be even later before it is ready to welcome swimmers again.

‘Not possible to stick to original timescale’

Speaking at a special meeting to scrutinise the closure, Neil Martin – the council’s head of design and property – confirmed that the estimated start date for the work, within the first three months of 2022, will not be met.

He said: “It will not be possible to stick to the original timescale.

“We aim to report back to members by early summer on the very considerable work that has to be undertaken.”

It emerged this week that the state of the £32 million centre was branded “shocking” just eight weeks after it opened.

The Olympia during construction.

A total of 177 defects were identified the following year, in 2014, but it is claimed 95% of those have now been rectified.

However, concerns still centre on corrosion – which has plagued the building since June 2013.

Councillors have also heard how some of the recommendations made in a 2017 report by pools expert Paul Hackett have not been implemented.

The report identified the causes of corrosion and made suggestions on how it could be fixed.

Council officers have further admitted that annual maintenance at the pools has not been carried out.

Robin Presswood.

Robin Presswood, the council’s executive director of city development, said: “Everything [from the 2017 report] has been considered and discussed and prioritised.

“Some were carried out immediately, some were not considered necessary and some are being picked up now.”

He added: “My understanding was that the new Olympia building was designed in such a way that annual maintenance was not necessarily required.

“Now we are looking into annual maintenance closures in future.”

Lack of annual maintenance ‘a mistake’

Lib Dem councillor Fraser Macpherson branded the lack of a yearly maintenance plan “a mistake”.

He told the meeting: “The bottom line is that there are more questions to answer in relation to why the issues at Olympia were not fully addressed at an earlier stage.”

Addressing the projected £4.5m cost of carrying out repair work, Mr Martin said the current climate is unprecedented – and various factors have to be taken into account, including Brexit, inflation and the situation in Ukraine.

He said: “We are in unprecedented times and there are fluctuations in costs.

General view of the Olympia in Dundee
The Olympia has been plagued with maintenance issues.

“We need to look at the fee criteria reports, evaluate these and find solutions.

“We will manage costs as best we can and we are doing everything in our power to look after the best interests of the council.”

Mr Presswood attempted to reassure councillors that the costs will not vary greatly from original estimates.

He said: “We do not envisage these will be substantially exceeded.

“We are currently getting a clear view of the situation and will bring a full report back to councillors on the repair programme, and if possible will bring that back at the same time as the tender report.”

Council has ‘no control’ over costs to fix roofing blunder

The committee also discussed a council roofing blunder, where hundreds of roofs were fitted to homes that did not meet British standards.

An initial estimate suggested this could cost £4.4m to rectify – but council chief executive Greg Colgan has now admitted this is not set in stone either.

He said: “Once we have cost certainty, we will report back to members.

“There are external factors that the council has no control over.”

Greg Colgan.

Mr Colgan says an internal audit is being carried out into the roofing error, which will be presented to councillors in April.

Labour councillor Kevin Keenan, chair of the committee, said: “This is a £4m disaster.

“It is a very significant, costly error and we need to reassure the people of Dundee that robust systems are place to ensure this cannot happen again.”