The proposed addition to the Cambridge Sports Centre has been described as "invaluable" LaurenTho 31 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Cambridge will have to shell out £600,000 to the council if a swimming pool goes unbuilt by June 2024.

The developer contribution will be charged by the City and District councils if the University fails to build the proposed addition to its Sports Centre.

As part of the construction of the North-West Cambridge Eddington development, the University was expected to construct a pool a maximum of seven years after the first dwelling in the Eddington development became occupied.

Councillor Katie Thornborrow confirmed to Varsity that this 7-year time limit will pass in June 2024.

According to a Sports and Public Access to West Cambridge document: “In the event that by the date seven years from the First Dwelling Occupation Date the West Cambridge Swimming Pool is not constructed, completed and open and ready for use the University shall pay the City Council the Swimming Facilities Fallback Payment”.

Councillor Thornborrow told Varsity that the total estimated cost of that payment would be £606,847: “Based on the latest BCIS indexation figures those amounts will be circa £388,382 to the City Council, and £218,465 to SCDC [South Cambridgeshire District Council].”

In a Cambridge City Council planning and transport scrutiny committee meeting on last Tuesday evening (16/01), one member of the public, Antony Carpen, asked the committee to provide an update on “where the council is [regarding the] University of Cambridge’s long overdue swimming pool plans in West Cambridge”.

Councillor Katie Thornburrow acknowledged that “it was part of an application from quite a long time ago” and claimed that part of their discussions with the University is about “warning them that there is a seven year time limit on that and the implications of that we need to go through with them”.

While a few colleges currently have their own private pools, the University does not have a swimming pool of its own. Most students must rely on Parkside Pool if they want access to an indoor swimming facility, a particularly long journey for students at colleges in West Cambridge.

Ellie Mason, the Cambridge University Swimming and Water Polo Club (CUSWPC) Junior President, told Varsity that a “university swimming pool would be invaluable to CUSWPC” as “the lack of a university pool limits our financial accessibility along with our training hours”.

It costs members of the Blues swimming team “around £600 per academic year” to subscribe to the team because of pool hire costs, whereas Oxford swimmers pay £90 a year, the student said.

Back in 2009, the student campaign to build the original Sports Centre specifically outlined the need for a swimming pool in its proposal.

“The absolute necessity of a University sports centre has not diminished over the years. Instead, it continues to grow. It grows each year with the rising cost of pool hire, now so great that the Swimming and Water Polo Club cannot afford a coach,” campaigners said.

The proposed pool is intended not only to be used by students, but also by the wider Cambridge community.

In April last year, Former Councillor Sam Davies addressed the public need for a new pool in West Cambridge.


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She said: “The hope was that the University would provide this through a S106 commitment, as part of its West Cambridge development; but it appears the University is in no hurry to deliver this. Yet the need still exists.”

A Cambridge spokesperson told Varsity: “The University does not currently have planning permission for a new pool, and if and when we receive planning permission we will need to take into account an ongoing council review of swimming pool demand and future provision in the wider area.”

“In the meantime, the University Sports Centre at West Cambridge and facilities nearby on Wilberforce Road offer a variety of sport and fitness activities. The refurbished gym, equipment, and additional sports spaces including junior short tennis and pickleball, are used by groups, athletes, students, staff and community members, with the Sports Centre open to all, seven days a week,” they said.