A neglected swimming pool in a deprived area of Birmingham will be restored after city officials approved plans to bring the pool back to life.

Birmingham City Council cabinet have approved a £4m project today (25 July) to bring the swimming pool at Small Heath Wellbeing Centre back into use after years of the pool being sealed off and abandoned.

The Council issued a statement confirming plans to bring back the pool for the people of Small Heath and Bordesley Green who feel “forgotten and betrayed”.

The swimming pool forms a part of the current Small Heath Wellbeing Centre which is located at the triangle of the Ladywood, Small Heath and Bordesley Green wards.

The once popular swimming pool is currently in a sad state of disrepair and sealed off to the public. Loose and broken ties litter a part of the swimming pool, and bunting is draped over a section of the interior which gives the space a poignant and haunted aspect.

The abandoned pool was once a sports mecca and drew people and schools – including local women’s groups – from across Birmingham.

The pool requires repairs to some of the tilesHSJ
The pool needs urgent repairs to save it from further decay

The pool has been closed since 2016 and the refurbishment will enable the community to access the health benefits of regular swimming, say Council officials.

Cllr Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “The return of swimming facilities to the neighbourhood would be a real boost to health outcomes and provide an important leisure and recreational space.

“Residents here have some of the poorest health outcomes in the city and the pandemic highlighted the health inequalities that exist, particularly for people from ethnic minority groups.

“While this is just one factor, the ability to access swimming facilities can make a real difference to people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“We have a longer-term ambition to provide a new facility for the area, but we need to bring the existing pool back into use as soon as we can for the benefit of the community.”

The pool was used by women's groups and for children to learn a key life skillHSJ
The pool was used by women’s groups and for children to learn a key life skill

The £4m project will see the swimming pool relined, the surrounding decking and walkways refurbished, the provision of changing facilities for customers with disabilities, and the installation of a new plant room to provide heating and hot water to the entire complex including the areas used by the school, the library and the youth service.

The first phase of the project will involve detailed design and the appointment of contractors to undertake pre-construction work to allow the development of a full business case for cabinet approval, expected this time next year.

Following the announcement of the constraints on council spending, detailed consideration is being given to any new projects. However, the needs of the communities served by this facility, that experience some of the highest levels of deprivation and poorest health outcomes in the city, make this a priority project.

A stone laid by Prime Minister Harold Wilson to build the Small Heath Community Centre complex in 1975HSJ
A stone laid by Prime Minister Harold Wilson to build the Small Heath Community Centre complex in 1975

The long abandoned swimming pool was once a major public asset in Small Heath and Bordesley Green.

The Small Heath Community and Leisure Centre in Muntz Street was a huge building project – with a stone laid by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1975 – and boasted a public library, swimming pool, leisure centre and a school which was opened by the then Prince Charles in 1980.

The swimming pool was popular with local people and also proved a huge success with schools and colleges across the West Midlands with coachloads of pupils arriving daily to use the services offered by the centre until the centre fell into decline and disrepair.

The Small Heath Swimming Pool was used by many Birmingham schoolsHSJ
The swimming pool once offered state of the art facilities and drew people from across the West Midlands before it closed down

The news of the plan to reopen the swimming pool has been received with rapture by local residents.

Mr Waleed, who lives in Small Heath, told I Am Birmingham: “This is such good news! I’d given up. I never thought we’d see the pool reopen again.

“After years of waiting, asking around, and praying, it’s finally happening.

“There was real hope that something might be done to repair the pool when the Commonwealth Games came to Birmingham.

“A year after that, it’s finally happening.

“I can’t wait for the doors to open and people are allowed to swim once again in a pool that’s brought so much joy and health benefits to local people over the years.”

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