A bid for £8 million of Levelling Up funds is to be made to try to reopen Swindon’s famous Oasis Leisure Centre.
The centre, with its familiar domed-roofed pool which opened in 1976 but which closed during lockdown in 2020, was due for demolition to make way for a major leisure centre development by SevenCapital.
However, the pool building was given Grade II-listed status by Historic England in December last year. Now Swindon Borough Council plans to bid for £8m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to try to reopen it.
However, the council has warned even with the Levelling Up funds, it will not be possible to bring forward a viable scheme. It says costs have risen substantially since the listing.
Cllr David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “We have always maintained that reopening the Oasis is a priority for the council and we have been in talks with SevenCapital to discuss ways this can be made possible.
“The listing of the dome and swimming pool has made that process extremely difficult as large parts of the original fabric need to be retained.
“Naturally, that has added considerable cost to the whole project and has made it much more complicated to add in the energy-saving measures which will make the facility more environmentally friendly.
“There are no guarantees we will be successful in our funding bid to the Government and we have to carry out a huge amount of due diligence with SevenCapital on their proposals before we can begin to take things forward.
“But we have to do what we can to give us a fighting chance of getting this important landmark back open for local people to enjoy.”
The council is also planning to submit a similar bid to the Levelling Up Fund for the second phase of restoration work to another iconic Swindon building, the Health Hydro. It has already had finding from the Towns Fund. Both levelling up bids need to be submitted next month.
Mark Campbell, head of planning for Evans Jones and a native of the town, said: “The closure of the Oasis was another disappointment for Swindon which has seen regeneration projects stall and a general lack of upgrade to the town’s leisure offerings in recent years.
“It is commendable that the council are seeking levelling up money to bring the Oasis back into use, but really it should not have been allowed to close in the first place and a lack of investment over the years has ultimately led it to this point.
“The listing of the pool building, seen by some residents as a way to save the facility, could actually harm any future proposals. The previously-approved regeneration of the site will now not go ahead, which in my opinion is another opportunity missed for the town which is severely lacking in high quality leisure and entertainment facilities.
“As a Swindonian who grew up using the Oasis and enjoyed taking my family there, it is sad that the site sits unused and most likely deteriorating further.
“The Oasis was a well-used facility within the town, not just for swimming but for football, indoor sports and even the occasional gig (I actually saw Morrissey perform there once!).
“It is important for the town to get this facility back. I hope the council can work with all stakeholders to make that happen and use the site as a genuine catalyst for positive change within the town.”
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