Above: The former Splashlands pool at Stanborough not long before closure.
March 31st - Major Development
Despite nothing at all from WHBC since September on the subject things are it seems happening, the last posting from them was from 4th September 2008 here.
"The council has been consulting with local residents about what they would like to have at the old Splashlands site in Stanborough Park, Welwyn Garden City.
Some of the results are now in and can be viewed here. Some are still being analysed and will be published shortly.
Keep checking the Leisure and Culture section of the website for updates about the redevelopment."
They have since subsequently failed to release the full results of their much publicised, and in my view flawed "consultation" on the subject. Even the "here" link in the above no longer works. But today news is seeping out that a grand plan, one which so far nobody knew about, is having to be scaled back. The Welwyn Times is covering the story HERE.
Why all the secrecy over this? Why haven't the public been kept informed, and dare I ask even properly consulted, on the proposals for the site. They seemed to have been at quite a late stage of development, but who knew?
No doubt a lot more money (our money) will now be spent on professional consultations and surveys as this unfolds, wouldn't it be better to involve the public from the outset, ask us what we'd prefer, and tell us afterwards what we said. The preliminary results from the flawed EIBE "consultation" that we were allowed to see, were very sub-standard and full of errors. It showed 1 and 2 year olds expressing an opinion on options for the site!
Also, presumably the site will need a new geological survey. A Freedom of Information Request request revealed that the old one, the one that was the basis for shutting down Splashlands has apparently been lost by WHBC! Even Herts County Council were surprised that such an important and expensive document could be so easily lost or misplaced. I wonder how much a new one will cost?
September 8th - Major Development.
The long awaited survey results from the play equipment manufacturer who won the tender to carry the consultation on the Splashlands replacement on behalf of WHBC have started to appear. The survey form which was flawed from the outset was used anyway (despite protestation dating back three months) and the results, or at least some of them have been put on the council website.
Main criticisms of the survey form were:
a) Why is the play equipment manufacturer collecting the
results? How can there be assured objectivity?
b) The form itself does not mention a swimming pool anywhere thus making the form inherently biased against a pool?
c) Where are you supposed to answer question eight, no space was provided? It's a key question.
d) Why does this form have to be posted? Eibe has an email address as does the council. Why is it not in an email of website format to encourage wider participation?
The results revealed so far reveal that concerns about the validity of this survey were correct...and then some!
Here are the links to the three documents, and below are initial holes and inconsistencies in it which leap off the page. I'm sure there are plenty more waiting to be uncovered.
1) Survey Response. 2) Consultation Overview 3) Pictures drawn by local children (?)
You don't need eagle eyes to spot the following apparent errors in document 1:
1) Top of first page it claims they "visited 60 schools in the ward of Welwyn Hatfield". There are only 46 schools in the entire borough according to Herts CC. Did they invent some new ones?
2) There seems to be a gender imbalance with almost 75% of respondent children being girls. This is not reflective of the national gender balance, plus boys are statistically more likely to engage in active outdoor pursuits such as swimming. Some other unrelated data referring to an entirely different document from last year has been tagged on to this page for some reason.
3) Question 5 appears after question 6. In question 5 some other question has apparently been answered which was not actually on the survey forms at all! Where did this come from? Of course what the children did say was they wanted swimming but this wasn't an option on the survey form.
4) Question 7: A waterpark for most people incorporates a swimming pool, and a waterpark is the favourite answer by a mile. But the survey does not define a waterpark, and attempts to get WHBC to define a waterpark have so far failed. Indicating they might take a waterpark to be a paddling pool. This term should have been clarified in the survey, it seems to have been left intentionally vague.
Once again data has been included from an entirely different document produced in 2007 and has been tagged on to this page for some reason. This was not a survey question.
5) Question 8: Again data from this 2007 document has been tagged on to this page for some reason. Again, not a question related to this survey.
6) The first question on the child's survey was "How old are you?". The mythical 60 schools is again mentioned, even better it appears that they surveyed a significant number of under fives, some as young as one. Those children must be bright! This is evidently either mistaken reporting or someone has been making these figures up.
7) On page 9 the question are you a boy or a girl is asked again, this time its a roughly 50/50 split as you'd expect. Not the difference we saw in point 2 above, strange how the gender of the children in the sample can shift so significantly, I wonder what brings that on.
Some other unrelated data referring to an entirely different document from last year has been tagged on to this page for some reason, and was not a survey question.
8) Question 4 (children) The play equipment manufacturer carrying out the survey reports that children most like to play with "play equipment" in a park. I wonder what the answer would have been to "what do you like to do at a swimming pool?" Questions relating to swimming pools are never asked. Same applies to question 7 where water is mentioned but swimming is not a option.
I don't think we expected serious academic research from a play equipment manufacturer, but honestly, the council should have been able to do a quantitative survey themselves every bit as good as this in a couple of afternoons. I would have hoped they would have done a much better job in collating the results too. Still, it's our money they spent on it, money well spent I'm sure.
The rest of the results, yet to be released, must be from the written responses to EIBE/WHBC. No doubt they will be equally illuminating.
Fundamentally, over 1,000 surveys were carried out. There should be an audit trail that can verify the authenticity of these results. Some details about the dates of the data collection and who collected it, and the option of sighting the completed survey forms.
The council have a duty to consult on the future of the Splashlands site, and in a competent and participatory way. A local objective consultation process, based on clear and transparent presentation of the data, so that local people see the logic in any decisions that will be made in their name. So far this seems but a pipedream, and not dissimilar to other local planning issues currently in the news.
It's interesting that of the four children's drawings on the council site, three of them included swimming pools.
It should also be remembered that the extensive geological surveys carried out on the site have apparently been lost by WHBC, and so will presumably need to be carried out again before any development of the site can be undertaken. The Freedom of Information request mail thread concerning that can be found HERE.
Comments on this can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
From 18th August:
A response to the questions asked about the survey has now been issued. A few fine points remain to be addressed and they will be progressed before any further comment is made.
News Update 12th August
Not much to say other than WHBC persist in saying that all of the documentation relating to the site surveys that prompted the closure of the pool originally were lost when a former employees left the council. This seems to be very bad management on their part and you cannot help but wonder how many other important documents have gone missing? Presumably any new development on the site will require a new structural survey before development begins.
Basic questions about proposed developments and the highlighting of major flaws in their recent "survey" have still not been properly commented on by WHBC, despite an official complaint being made about the slowness of the response. It is now three months since these questions were asked and at this point there is no knowing when answers might be forthcoming.
How can the council claim to be fullfilling its constitutional duty to respond to residents questions?
News Update 28th June: Information was received today that WHBC now say that the Stanborough site is unsuitable for building a new swimming pool due to problems with subsidence. To our knowledge in previous dialogues about a replacement pool this has never been said. Although we stand to be corrected. The last story about this in the Welwyn Times certainly did not mention it, it can be seen here.
If a pool is not feasible due to land stabilization issues, why didn't WHBC say so, and make the appropriate review or survey commissioned that reached conclusion available to view?
Are they saying that any survey response forms that indicated a preference for a swimming pool will be discarded as an irrelevance? We await the full details of that survey with interest.
Did you know? The pool first opened in 1935 and was very heavily used from the outset. The original pool was fed directly from the adjacent river Lea and some complained the water was often too cold and murky!
The pool remained in use until the 90's, it seems that there were no subsidence problems for the first 60 years of its life, that's less than a blink in geological time. Strange that it's deemed unstable land now.
Here's a picture of the pool being enjoyed in 1937, what a different world it looks!
Links relating to the pool:
Times online letter, June 6th.
WT article informing about the flawed survey process (the words "swimming pool" don't appear in the survey form).
Link to Council website and survey forms
St.Albans Review story with comment from party representatives