News from Harlow Council – Niel Churchill

It’s with disappointment that Harlow Council announces that it will not be opening the paddling pools this summer due to the coronavirus outbreak and concern for public health.

Under current government rules, playgrounds and outdoor swimming pools cannot be opened and social distancing restrictions remain in place for outdoor exercise.

Brian Keane, Chief Executive of Harlow Council, said: “It’s with regret that we have taken the decision to not open the paddling pools this summer. Given the coronavirus outbreak and public health advice, there is no other option at this time. Every year leading up to opening the pools there are routine preparations that we have to make along with recruiting and training new staff. Therefore we have made the decision now rather than continue any of that work. The pools are always busy places and we just don’t know what the situation will be in July with opening these types of facilities and what social distancing restrictions will be in place.

“We know that this decision will be disappointing for families, but public health is our number one priority and we must do what we can to limit the spread of the virus. This is the right decision at this time and other councils have also taken the same decision.

“However the good news is that we have agreed to carry out health and safety works and other improvements to the pools so they will be back better than ever when they do reopen next year. The paddling pools are much-loved and cherished assets so by agreeing improvements now we are making a commitment to their future.

“While the pools will remain empty this summer, parks across the town can still be accessed by families for exercise and relaxation.”

Improvements announced for paddling pools  

All five existing paddling pools will undergo improvements ahead of them reopening next year. The works will include installing barrier fencing and surface repairs to improve health and safety. The provision of toilet facilities and changing rooms will also be considered and seating areas for parents and carers to help make the paddling pools even more accessible to all.

One of the oldest pool’s Staple Tye will be improved and become a trial project with new access to toilet and changing facilities and a new splash park alongside the paddling pool.

The improvements will be funded from a separate budget which will be safeguarded to pay for the works ahead of next year.

The range of improvements follows the report published by the council’s scrutiny committee. Following a petition set up by resident Martin Dear calling for the town park paddling pool to be retained, councillors carried out a comprehensive review of the pools, which included consultation with the public on future improvements. The committee recommended that all of the town’s paddling pools were improved, but kept as paddling pools rather than changed to splash parks.

The council has listened to the views of residents who see the paddling pools as both iconic and much-loved community assets which bring back fond memories for all.