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‘They’ll be dancing in the streets’: Bucksburn Pool to REOPEN months after closure

Council leaders have confirmed plans to bring the beloved facility back to life months after draining it.

Campaigners have hailed the surprise decision to reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool.
Campaigners hailed the surprise decision to reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Bucksburn Swimming Pool will be reopened in a staggering U-turn several months after the plug was pulled on the much-loved venue.

Aberdeen City Council voted to slash funding to operator Sport Aberdeen in this year’s controversial budget.

The £700,000 blow spelled the end for the Beach Leisure Centre and left Bucksburn residents shocked as they learned their beloved pool would be mothballed.

At the same time, the axe fell on six Aberdeen libraries.

Protestors even tackled Humza Yousaf this year. Image: Loretta Hood/DC Thomson

Weeks of furious demonstrations ensued, the sight of placard-waving protestors becoming common outside the Town House.

Why the sudden change?

While the council’s SNP and Lib Dem leaders refused to budge, a legal challenge was launched.

And it was this threat that led to the council carrying out belated studies on how the loss of the amenities hit certain residents.

The verdict was that elderly and disabled people had been negatively hit by the loss of the pool.

And it’s understood that the cost of fighting this looming court battle may have influenced the decision.

Campaigners have been resolute in their work to secure the reopening of Bucksburn pool in Aberdeen. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Campaigners have been resolute in their work to secure the reopening of Bucksburn pool in Aberdeen. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Our blow by blow account of the milestone council meeting covers:

  • The reaction from jubilant campaigners who never gave up their fight
  • Fury over the shambolic U-turn that comes nine months after the pool was ordered to close amid a budget bloodbath
  • The emotional appeals from library users that ultimately fell on deaf ears

What happened at monumental meeting?

Leader of the SNP group, Christian Allard today said the recent studies had influenced the change of heart.

He formally moved that Aberdeen City Council should “request Sport Aberdeen recommission Bucksburn Pool”.

That will include improvements to the building, along with upgrades to reduce energy costs. Money is to be found from the authority’s capital budget.

Mr Allard pledged that it would be “first class” when brought back to life.

The building has lain empty for months. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Bucksburn pool reopening ‘a victory for people power’

Save Bucksburn Swimming Pool campaigners have hailed the “monumental victory”.

They said: “This triumph is not just about swimming; it’s a testament to the unwavering dedication of our community.

“The decision to reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool is a resounding declaration that the power of the people can shape the future of our city.”

Protestors outside the pool. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The group added: “As we express our joy and gratitude, we also recognise the deeper significance of this victory.

“It’s about standing up against adversity and proving that united, we are a force to be reckoned with.”

And they’re already planning a “community celebration” soon.

Wearing a thick festive jumper, Labour councillor Graeme Lawrence suggested Christmas had come early for Bucksburn residents.

He told the chamber: “I’m sure they’ll be dancing in the streets of Bucksburn tonight.”

Residents packed into a public meeting days after the closure was announced. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson

Fury at original decision to pull plug on pool

Mr Allard also made efforts to absolve the administration of blame for the original unpopular decision.

He said that not enough information was supplied on the “equality implications of the budget options” before they voted on them.

The cries of campaigners fell on deaf ears earlier this year. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

It was an argument that didn’t appear to wash with opponents, who demanded council leaders “must apologise to the public for this disgraceful turn of events”.

Labour leader M Tauqeer Malik said: “It has turned the council into a circus.

“I think the chief executive should apologise to the community for the deplorable way in which these facilities were closed.”

Calls for finance boss to resign over cuts chaos

And finance convener, Alex McLellan, who oversaw the budget this year, faced calls to stand down over the shambles.

Alex McLellan at the fateful budget meeting on March 1. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Deena Tissera said he had “brought great shame to the council”.

She added: “He must resign now. Accountability for the budget lies with him.”

Lib Dem council co-leader Ian Yuill hit back, saying the group had “complete confidence” in their colleague.

Council co-leader Ian Yuill and Christian Allard refused to comment. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson
Council co-leaders Ian Yuill and Christian Allard. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

And he insisted that leading councillors “had nothing to apologise for” as their process was “not in any way flawed”.

He blamed the Tories for “making a complete Horlicks of the UK economy by crashing it in 2022” for some of the difficult financial decisions.

Mr McLellan later stressed how difficult the decisions had been, and blasted the previous Tory and Labour administration for “decimating services”.

So just how big a U-turn was it?

Opinion seemed to differ on the scale of the ruling group’s shock U-turn.

Labour’s Lynn Thomson said it was the most “screeching” manoeuvre of its kind since the Scottish Government decided to restore Big Noise Torry’s funding this year – prompting a turnaround from Mr Allard, who had trashed the charity days earlier.

Labour’s Gordon Graham went a step further, delving back centuries…

He said it was the “biggest U-turn since King Edward II of England was sent homewards to think again at Bannockburn”.

The Bannockburn Live festival, at Stirling Castle, marked the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn

Heartbreak for library users

During the talks, there were furious exchanges about reopening libraries closed at he same time as the pool.

Library campaigner Karen Barrett-Ayres stated her case to elected members as the meeting got under way.

She urged the council to “save its tarnished reputation” by restocking the shelves at shuttered Woodside, Ferryhill, Cults, Kaimhill, Northfield and Cornhill buildings.

Karen Barrett-Ayres with her son Brodie at their local Ferryhill Library. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

She also explained that local youngsters suffered another blow when the Ferryhill Primary School library was cleared to make way for another classroom this summer.

Building papers dated from June indicate that the council spent £20,000 on the work.

But education bosses later said that a “smaller room” at the school will now be converted into a library space.

‘It made me physically sick’

Laurie Mackay issued similar concerns in an emotional appeal to councillors.

Addressing the room via Teams, she railed against officers’ waving away concerns about the impact of library closures as fewer people had taken part in consultations about it.

Laurie MacKay speaking at an event to mark the 140th anniversary of Woodside Library – several months after it closed. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

She said: “For people to read that they essentially don’t matter enough… That says a great deal about this council’s attitude to those living at a disadvantage.”

However, the administration’s called for the original closures to remain in place.

Their political opponents battled to reopen the libraries as well as the pool, but were outvoted by 24 votes to 16 in the end.

What next for Bucksburn Swimming Pool reopening?

As we revealed last week, it could be that shutting Bucksburn Swimming Pool comes back to haunt the council as a million-pound mistake.

Despite the ongoing legal threat, the pool was stripped out in September.

Bucksburn swimming pool was drained and stripped of assets by Sport Aberdeen after its closure. Image: Save Bucksburn Swimming Pool
Bucksburn swimming pool was drained and stripped of assets by Sport Aberdeen after its closure. Image: Save Bucksburn Swimming Pool

With the work envisaged to get the pool working again, it may not reopen until the end of 2024 or the beginning of the following year.

Sport Aberdeen chairman Alistair Robertson is now awaiting more information on the reopening plans.

Alistair Robertson of Sport Aberdeen. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson

He said: “It would be premature to comment on the council’s decision until we have been contacted and are fully advised of what is expected.”

The legal case concerning both the pool and library closures has been paused until January, and any forthcoming action will be decided at that point.

Read more about that here.

The 287-day rollercoaster campaign as locals refused to give up on Bucksburn Swimming Pool