Members of the community and Zest staff alike celebrated the reopening of the pool on January 2, which had been shut since the heating system broke on November 4, leaving many without a place to exercise.
The back-to-back breakdown of the boiler and a burst pipe meant that the centre faced an uncertain future due to steep maintenance bills, compounded by the fact that it is housed in a Victorian building which requires regular repairs.
Zest’s closure sparked worry among those who regularly use the facility, which is popular with people who have specific needs due to health issues and disability, as well as people with children due to the fact it is warmer than most and runs swimming lessons.
The charity’s chief executive Matthew Dean has now spoken of his ‘relief’ that the repair work is done and a ‘plan’ is in place to pay for it and ensure that the pool stays open in future.
“It is such a relief. People have been really positive and I am so pleased that we have such a supportive local authority,” he said.
“It is so great to have people back through the doors and see so many loyal faces who were back in here the day we reopened.
“The pool is really important to the centre as a whole as without it we don’t have that flow of people who come in and then use the library and the cafe too.
“The pool is really important to people who use it as well. When it closed it was really powerful to see what people were saying about how much they valued it and needed it to to reopen.”
While the pool was closed members of the community and regulars at the centre wrote in to express how vital the facilities are to their well being, and how they had been affected by the closure.
One wrote: “ I rely on swimming for exercise. I love Zest and having swimming nearby makes it easier for me to get out to exercise during my very busy life (I work and have two kids).
“Also my daughter is learning to swim at Zest and has been sad not to have her lessons. She enjoys them very much and we struggle to get her interested in other forms of exercise.”
And another stressed the value of the pool to their health, writing: “I have stopped exercising as much. I have missed seeing familiar faces and having a chat and have not read as much or enjoyed seeing new books.”
The added that they missed “that lovely feeling of I have an inexpensive option of doing something healthy.”
Zest plans to pay for the maintenance work through insurance, however Mr Dean admitted that could be difficult due to the age of the building. The alternative option is to use money gained form the sale of a building that Zest used to occupy that the local authority sold.
However, the loss of income during the two-month closure means that income from people using the facilities in the next few months is vital.
“It is a case of encouraging people to come in and use the community centre, and there may be some grants we can apply for to help,” Mr Dean added.
“Luckily it is a good time of the year to reopen, with people making new year’s resolutions to get fit!”
Zest is open and swimming lessons started again on Monday (January 6).