AT THE beginning of this month, Waterside Community Trust (WCT) celebrated its tenth year of operation since the Isle of Wight Council threatened the centre at Ryde with closure.

Built as an outdoor pool with a paddling pool and learner pool in 1974, the seafront facility was enclosed with its unique opening roof in 1994 as the last gasp of the old Medina Borough Council, before its budget was absorbed by the creation of the unitary authority.

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Great plans for remodelling, with new changing rooms a cafe and a gym, were explored in 2006/7 and Southampton-based architects FDG were commissioned to draw up plans. As a first step, three dual-fuel boilers were commissioned in 2009 but by 2010, its closure was announced.

This was the fall-out from the 2008 recession and was at a time when local councils throughout the country were shedding non-essential services. Papers released at the time indicated that the pool was losing £200k pa.

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Waterside Pool provides training for individuals and groups of all ages.

Following a meeting organised by Ian and Lesley Ball, a petition was launched and within four weeks obtained several thousand signatures — more than enough to force a full debate by councillors.

An action group followed and the closure was delayed to give WCT to set up as a not-for-profit company and bid to take the facility over. A rival approach came from a developer who had plans to build a hotel with what Lesley dismissively called a ‘fluffy towel pool’

Todd Miller, one of the original trustees, said that when WCT submitted its bid, they were advised they would receive approximately £100K in start-up subsidy when they took over in April 2011.

There were procedural delays, so it was agreed the IW Council would keep the pool open until they were ready to transfer ownership.

Todd recalls: “We took over on December 1, 2011, and were then told the £100K had been used up in running the facility from April to December! We only got £16K, but IW Council did fund a new filter and a fuel conversion to gas.

“A conversation between trustees at the time was: ‘if we can keep it going for six months we will have achieved something!”

Ryde Town Council (RTC) was supportive throughout and provided £40k per annum, which was a lifeline in those early years.

As WCT became more successful, this annual grant was cut first to £30k and latterly to £20k. To this day, Waterside relies heavily on the support of RTC, as well as grants and fundraising to keep the centre open and to continue to develop and improve its facilities.

The original trustees were Ian Jenkins, Mark Haslam, Lesley Ball, Todd Miller, Chris Wrenn and Andre Kurowski, while Conrad Gauntlett was the first RTC representative.

Since 2011, Waterside Pool has grown in strength year-on-year, with fantastic community support, as well as invaluable support from RTC.

The centre is open seven days a week, 50 weeks of the year. During the past ten years it has provided jobs to more than 200 people, trained up over 300 lifeguards, taught in excess of 20,000 local children to swim, and provided a community hub for locals, with countless visitors over the past ten years.

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Waterside has also developed a beach lifeguard service too.

The centre has also developed Ryde Beach Lifeguards, which is a nationally recognised arm of the charity focusing on training of lifeguards, as well as providing a beach lifeguard service for Ryde and Sandown beaches.

The centre costs approximately £1,000 per day to run and wouldn’t be open without support from the community.

Current trustees are Mark Haslam, Andre Kurowski, Ian Jenkins, Keith Gentleman, Peter Taylor, Conrad Gauntlett, Malcolm Marshall and John Sands.

There will be a proper celebration planned next summer, when WCT hopes Covid restrictions will have eased.

The centre is always in need of support, so anyone wishing to offer help this Christmas can make a donation to WTC’s current project, to raise funds for new starting blocks for use in group swimming lessons and primarily by Ryde Swimming Club, whose members swim at the centre.

To donate, visit:

Todd concluded: “Going back to the early conversation between trustees, they are elated to see the centre still open ten years later! But all the trustees have volunteered huge amounts of their time over the years to support the centre and without them, the centre certainly wouldn’t be open.”