Sort out our pool, say Hitchin swimmers amid complaints about cleanliness and management

Hitchin outdoor swimming pool.

Hitchin outdoor swimming pool. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Sort out our pool – that’s the message from visitors to Hitchin’s swimming spot as attendances soared amid the sweltering heat last weekend.

Hitchin outdoor swimming pool

Hitchin outdoor swimming pool - Credit: Archant

In a well-subscribed thread on Facebook over the past three days, swimmers have complained about a perceived lack of cleanliness, both in the water and in other parts of the facilities.

About 2,000 people went to Fishponds Road on Sunday alone to use the swimming centre, which is run by Stevenage Leisure Ltd on behalf of North Hertfordshire District Council.

But a large slice of the outdoor pool’s deeper end was closed off to swimmers, with the explanation given that the water was too dirty for the lifeguards to see the bottom – creating a health and safety risk.

The district council yesterday apologised for any problems with cleanliness, while insisting that the management did their best – employing extra cleaners to both the indoor and outdoor pools.

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A former lifeguard’s extensive post on the ‘We are from Hitchin’ Facebook group, comparing his experiences on Sunday to when he worked at the outdoor pool a half-century ago, has attracted hundreds of responses, most of them agreeing with him.

Those responding to the post included Hitchin councillor Judi Billing – herself the owner of many fond memories of the pool, going back decades – who said she would raise the issue of the centre’s management with council officers and at the Hitchin committee meeting next Tuesday.

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Speaking to the Comet, Judi said: “I think people get quite sentimental about things they’ve loved as well as the Hitchin Outdoor Pool. It was great. We loved it, especially as young parents.

“The main issue seems to be cleanliness. But pools have been cleaned for hundreds of years – it’s not impossible to do.

“The council is responsible for making sure the pool is well-run. I’m not going to join in the ‘everything’s rubbish’ brigade – it just needs sorting out. Just get it fixed!”

Letchworth business owner Mark Russell added that his wife Debs had used the pool during its first week back opening this year, only to find it “filthy”.

He said: “She told the lifeguard it contained leaves and bits of ‘rubble’. The shallow end had sand on the bottom. Why was the pool so filthy when it had just opened for the season?

“What a shame and what a contrast to the outdoor pool in Letchworth.”

Responding to the complaints, district council executive member for leisure Councillor Jane Gray said: “It was great to see so many people at the Hitchin outdoor pool over the weekend. It was incredibly busy, with around 2,000 people using the facilities on Sunday.

“We apologise to customers for any problems with cleanliness of the pool – however SLL, who manage the facility on behalf of the council, did their utmost to keep the facilities clean despite the huge numbers of visitors.

“They employed extra contract cleaners for both the indoor pool and the outdoor pool to concentrate on critical areas such as the toilets, showers and changing areas.”

In response to the the online allegation that Stevenage Leisure Ltd runs the centre with the aim of making profits, a spokeswoman pointed out that SLL is in fact a registered charity and non-profit distributing organisation.

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