April 2020

Why do the council hate the Oasis? Indeed, DO the council hate the Oasis?

I confess I’d not considered these questions at all until more than one person gave voice to them on Twitter in recent conversations about the Oasis. And the more I ponder, the more I’m forced to confront the possibility. Let’s look at the evidence for the prosecution.

Back in February Cllr Heenan told the Swindon Advertiser in this article: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19114529.listing-oasis-stop-revamp-costing-millions/  that he’d written a letter to Historic England urging them reject the listing application for the building.

In the first instance that action, I assume sanctioned by the Council leader, raises many questions.
1. Is it an appropriate thing for a Cllr to do?
2. Does such an action best serve the residents they’ve been elected to serve – many of whom do not want to lose the Oasis for a not-very-lovely, definitely-not-iconic gasometer look-a-like.
And many others of a similar ilk. 

I don’t know – I’m merely putting out there that maybe this is not something a councillor ought to do.

But putting all that to one side for a moment, isn’t such a thing an overt act of hostility to the Oasis? At the very least it feels like a petty action to take. One that smacks of a mystifying desperation to demolish something deserving of the term iconic. Something interesting, something significant and replace it with something about which, the word bland is the most positive spin I can find.

And on that note – from the Guardian ‘There’s a simple way to make our cities greener – without a wrecking ball.

Why do the council hate the Oasis? Drone photo by Stuart Harrison showing the Oasis and the DMJ.
The drone photograph here is by Stuart Harrison: https://www.cotswoldsbusinessphotography.com

Why wouldn’t they?

*Why wouldn’t a town’s administration want to do their damnedest to keep a heritage building? And let’s be clear – the Oasis is equally as much a heritage building as the Mechanics’ Institution, the GWR Railway Village, the town hall and many more.

*There are answers to that question for sure but I’ll leave it there for now.

The aforementioned Adver article quotes Cllr Heenan as saying: ‘People are passionate about the Oasis Leisure Centre and its emotional connection to families learning to swim, but this building does not have special architectural or historic interest, and no part should be listed.’ Cllr Heenan speaks there with both breath-taking arrogance and an authority on architecture I didn’t realise he possessed. Who knew?

Note – since the publication of that piece the Save the Oasis campaign have amassed a great deal of evidence to refute that statement.

Screenshot from tweet

Marching on!

Now I’ll push forward into March and this commentary in the Swindon Advertiser by the Council leader, David Renard: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19167555.david-renard/

Is this or is this not an act of hostility towards the Oasis? And indeed, I will argue, Swindon itself: 

I for one, will be keeping my fingers crossed Historic England does not grant it listed status because it is time to give the Oasis a new lease of life and many more families treasured memories.’

Yet again, so many questions raised. How is it appropriate for a Council leader to actively and openly wish for the demolition of a heritage building? That’s an astonishing thing to say and surely wrong on so many levels?! For a start – how are we meant to have any trust in a Council leader with such an approach to heritage assets?

‘Oasis dome is at the end of its life – it’s time for a modern leisure centre’ screamed the Adver headline. 

In the first instance there’s no such thing as a building lifespan – only lack of maintenance. And again the Save Oasis campaign have evidence to support that assertion. Apart from that, what gives Cllr Renard the authority to tell Swindonians that it’s ‘it’s time for a modern leisure centre’. Yet more breath-taking, paternalistic arrogance.  Whether Swindonians want a new leisure centre or not, is for them to decide – not the council to dictate. 

screenshot of a tweet about building lifespans

The Oasis as a tourist attraction

The Oasis used to be a huge draw. As Barry Leighton wrote in the Swindon Advertiser in 2015, it was a bigger attraction than Stonehenge! And it could be again! With vision and the right management. Whereas, ‘let’s go to Swindon to swim in a leisure centre that looks like a gasometer’ no-one will say ever!

Anyone would think that our current Conservative administration don’t want people to come to Swindon and spend their money here. Certainly, demolish the Oasis and you’ve got a gaping hole on the Visit Swindon website. #awkward

Have they thought this through AT ALL?

 And another point to be clear on there. Any replacement leisure centre that doesn’t feature:

  • The dome
  • A freeform lagoon pool that offers easy-access for the less mobile and for small children the like of which nothing else in Swindon offers.
  • … a tropical themed interior … 

    … isn’t the Oasis. It’s a North Star Leisure centre.

    Thus, dressing that hastily-shoved out CGI as ‘saving the iconic Oasis’ is a misrepresentation at best. And woeful ignorance of what the word iconic does in fact mean. Unless they were being ironic …?

    And aside from the swimming, there was football, live music, roller-skating, martial arts, gymnastics and more.  I could go on for hours.

    But instead, I’ll return to my original questions: 
    Why does SBC hate the Oasis? DO SBC hate the Oasis?

Answers on a postcard! Preferably to the Swindon Advertiser Office!

See also: