Running costs and repairs could mean the Oasis will NEVER reopen

The Oasis is so old, and in need of such repair, real doubt has been put on it ever reopening.

And if it does, the boss of the leisure specialist running it until November, said it could come back as a visitor attraction rather than a community use centre – and cost users much more.

John Watkins a director of Seven Capital, which owns the lease, and Mark Sesnan, the chief executive of GLL, the company that ran the centre until November, told Swindon councillors it was not viable.

Mr Sesnan told a task force set up by the council’s scrutiny committee to investigate the centre’s closure: “Covid-19 has accelerated the situation, but if we weren’t having this discussion now, then we’d be having it in 2022 whatever happened, I think.”

Mr Watkins said Seven Capital was in discussions with other operators about opening the centre. “We have had other interest but that’s at a general level, and we are reviewing all options at the moment,” he said.

Both men said the age and design of the building itself was a significant barrier to successfully reopening the Oasis.

Mr Watkins said: “The energy consumption and staffing requirement of the pool are too high for viability. GLL was running it at a loss.”

Mr Sesnan said: “The dry-side – the health and fitness – were being used to subsidise the pool, but now that’s gone, there’s no way to keep it going.

“Everyone remembers the pool when it’s full – but there’s nobody there on a wet Tuesday in February and the costs of running it, heating it, are just as high.”

Asked by Labour councillor Emma Bushell whether GLL had enough information when it decided to take on the running of the Oasis, Mr Sesnan said: “I think we were probably over-optimistic that we could make it work.

“We made great efforts but we were losing money. Then last year we had a nine-week season, and we put every effort in, but our analysis is that the building needs a lot of money spent on it as we move forward – and the rent we were paying wasn’t enough to pay for that.”

Asked by Conservative councillor Matthew Courtliff whether it was likely that public authorities could subsidise the centre to make it viable, Mr Sesnan said it could be done, but would be very expensive.

He said: “It makes a difference whether you want to keep it going for another 25 years, or five.

“The closest thing to the Oasis is the Waterfront Centre in Woolwich. Greenwich Council has just put in £2m to keep it going, but only for another five years.”

Mr Sesnan said several leisure pools like Oasis which opened in the 1970s and 80s have been shut in recent years, and said if it did have a future it would be as a visitor attraction, not a community leisure centre: “We wouldn’t be interested, we’re a swimming pool company.

“But it could be on the Center Parcs model – a place to take the kids and they love it and have a good time and it’s popular – but it’s not cheap to go to.

“It would be £25 to visit, not £10. It would be a visitor attraction, not a leisure centre used by the community.”

Mr Watkins told the task group that Seven Capital had only recently taken back responsibility for the centre from GLL, after it was shut in October and GLL announced it would not open again in November after the autumn lockdown.

A report by the scrutiny committee task group is expected by the end of March.

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