Fight to reopen St George's pool in Shadwell goes to Parliament
- Credit: Jonathan Rioja
A campaign to reopen St George’s swimming pool, which was shut at the beginning of the Covid emergency, has now gone to Parliament.
MP Apsana Begum has started a move at Westminster to prevent Shadwell’s main leisure centre being permanently closed following a public protest to Tower Hamlets Council last November.
The Poplar and Limehouse MP has lodged a Commons motion calling for the swimming pool in The Highway to reopen.
“Shutting down any publicly-run leisure centre would be a disaster after Covid,” the MP said in a statement to the East London Advertiser.
“We should make them as accessible as possible as we emerge from the pandemic, after the temporary forced closure of so many of these services on safety grounds.
“We have to make sure those who can’t afford costly gym memberships have access to leisure services.
“Expensive gym memberships are out of reach for so many people. Any closures will exclude low-income families from many sports activities, denying them the benefits of exercise.”
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Her Commons motion calls on government ministers to halt any further closures, while making sure local authorities have enough funds to run public centres like St George’s.
It is part of a cross-party campaign with ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell among the Labour signatories, along with Lib Dems’ Wera Hobhouse, Greens’ Caroline Lucas and Northern Ireland Democratic Unionists’ Jim Shannon.
The Commons move was sparked by a “people’s campaign” first revealed in the Advertiser last November to get St George’s reopened after the Covid crisis.
A petition by Friends of St George’s was handed to the town hall calling for the reopening so children can learn to swim while growing up in an area “where there are so many canals, docks and rivers”.
It attracted 1,550 signatures at the time.
But the council insisted it couldn’t splash out on reopening the swimming pool because it didn’t have the cash.
It now says it is “reviewing all possible options for reopening St George’s” but warns that the building has “ongoing challenges” about its age, maintenance and management.
A town hall spokesperson said: “No decision has been made.
"Cuts to council funding and the economic cost of Covid-19 continues to impact how we provide services — our priority remains frontline support for our most vulnerable residents.”
St George’s was shut when the Covid emergency forced public places to close, but failed to be reopened when restrictions were temporarily relaxed last summer.