Tooting Bec Lido summer season – our meeting with the council

Last week we met with council officers and the Cabinet Member with responsibility for leisure facilities in Wandsworth to raise our concerns regarding various aspects of the running of Tooting Bec Lido this summer.

We love the Lido and feel so lucky to have it in our ward. It’s a facility enjoyed not just by people in Tooting, or even Wandsworth, but people travel from far and wide to enjoy a dip in the 90 metres of fresh water. Rumour has it that Brad Pitt has even been there to film a scene!

Our concerns were that many people who visited the Lido this summer did not have the experience they expected, and many may have been left disappointed as a result of this. When being asked to pay £7.50, you can understand why.

That is why we called for this meeting, to discuss:

  • The persistently long queues
  • IT failures which caused the card payments system to crash
  • Cleanliness of the facility
  • Maintenance issues
  • Access to the paddling pool

The main themes to arise during our discussion were the need for better communication and planning, and we reinforced the need for better expectation management of the queue. Although it’s not possible to predict exactly how long people may be queuing for, it’s safe to say that once the queue reaches a certain point (somewhere near the end of the fence), it will be around an hour’s wait. Even if this isn’t completely accurate, it helps those who haven’t been before to know what the wait time might be. It is this aspect of communication (and not just on Twitter and social media) that we reinforced. A point which we noted was equally important when problems arise such as the occasions when the card machine wasn’t working. We noted that over, rather than under communication was preferable in these situations, especially given the distance to the nearest cash point. On the issue of the card machine, this apparently occurred due to overheating, and so we hope that more robust IT infrastructure is put in place before next summer to avoid this happening again! We noted to the council that if people were not told that they couldn’t pay by card, they were unlikely to return given the distance to the nearest cash point, something which will have resulted in a loss of money.

We also indicated that it would be useful, perhaps through a sign to be put up at busy times, to indicate what items could and couldn’t be taken into the lido, something which may cut down the time taken for security officers to inspect and remove items from bags. Although there is a small sign there noting no alcohol, this could definitely be more prominent and provide more details than it does currently.

It was useful to reflect that the standard of cleanliness had picked up over the course of the summer, something which we had noted that Places for People needed to do something about . This was following several complaints by  users of the lido about the cleanliness of the cubicles and changing rooms.

It was admitted that the maintenance of the Lido could have been handled better by Places for People. Examples of this include the paddling pool and the various equipment repairs which were, and are still needed (we’re still in discussions about the work needed on the pump). We’re hoping that these are all brought up to the standard they should be now that demand is less.

Although the heatwave may have passed, it is our hope that the points we highlighted at this meeting will mean a smoother and less problematic summer season next year and beyond – something we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on. Despite it not being sunny, the Lido now seems to be suffering with too much rain(!) and the pump house not working as it should be mean the showers have been unavailable for a lot of this week. Once more, a loss of power to the reception means the card payment facility is down again. We hope that these problems will be remedied soon and will be keeping the pressure on to make sure they are.

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