The Save the Oasis Campaign: The story so far

https://www.facebook.com/saveoasis

April 2021

Saving the Oasis – the story so far
The Save the Oasis campaign has picked up many followers of late and gathered more traction on social media. So, I figured I’d post an update on who they are and the story so far.

The key figures spearheading the Save the Oasis campaign are Neil Robinson, Emma Williams and Helena Bowie. Though there are many others helping in many ways.

Neil and Emma were regular users of the Oasis, right up to its closing in November 2020. Helena Finch became involved with concern for the loss of the Oasis as a tourist attraction and as a vital facility for families and the disabled. So their passion for saving the Oasis is born of wanting to save a facility that they either used themselves or wish to see preserved for others whose needs only this facility can meet.

Said Neil: ‘I learnt to swim at the Oasis. What’s more I took my toddler daughter swimming there just before it closed. We were one of the last people to use it. This is the best facility for people with young families for miles around. Its loss will be tragic.’ While regular Oasis swimmer Emma Williams, who has knee and hip problems thanks to sports injuries, finds the centre a Godsend because she simply walk into the water, whereas she finds getting into a regular pool with ladder access difficult and painful.

The Save the Oasis Campaign: The story so far - the oasis dome from above

About the listing application

Almost the moment the Oasis closed, Historic England received a listing application from an unknown individual. The SOS campaign does not know who this person is. They’ve tried to find out but data protection prevents.

The 20th Century Society also put in a listing application – but they were turned down as someone else had got there before them.

How the campaign has unfolded

In the first instance the SOS campaign didn’t support the idea of listing the Oasis fearing it would impede renovation. They changed their minds on it as they understood that there how funding streams available ONLY for listed buildings. The Save Grange Lido campaign tweeted the group late March to give them information about funding streams for listed buildings.

Before that though, article from the 25th February edition of the Swindon Advertiser, reported that Cllr Heenan had written to Historic England asking them not to list the Oasis. He/Heenan said:

‘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.’

Further to that, on the 18th March 2021 the Swindon Advertiser published comment from Council leader David Renard:

‘Oasis dome is at the end of its life – it’s time for a modern leisure centre’ and ‘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.And you can read my rather furious and impassioned response to that here.

All that was in response to a considerable amount of flak that SBC got on releasing this:

screen shot of tweet showing a CGI of a leisure centre

IN THE MEANTIME

While all this was happening the SOS campaign didn’t sit on their laurels. They carried out extensive digging and researching to find ways to renovate the dome so it could be sustainable.

Towards the end of March the group had contact from two engineering companies, Studio Octopi and the Iceni Project. Both are experienced in restoring heritage swimming pools. And both were firm that the Oasis dome could be renovated by placing the roof panels with EFTE pillows.

Around this time the team also made contact with Mike Kirkman, director of Sports at Aston University and also involved with Historic Pools of Britain. It’s his belief that refurbishment is possible. Further, the fact that the Oasis has excellent access for the disabled, makes its renovation and saving vital. 

In addition, the team’s diligent research and social media use brought to their Twitter door, Robert Guy and Otto Suarez.

First contact from Robert Guy
First Contact from Robert Guy
Mr Guy wrote this piece about the Oasis for the Architects’ Journal

‘The loss of the Oasis would represent the loss of an entire building type which is both culturally and architecturally important,’ says Robert Guy, a partner at Bristol-based Arturus Architects.
Tweet from Otto Saurez

At every step of the way the team have passed everything they’ve learned and discovered to Cllr Renard. They’ve also tried, many times, without success thus far, to contact Seven Capital – the lease-holders of the Oasis site.

Indeed, the team have tried – hard – to engage with the current administration about the Oasis but with very little response and no noticeable cooperation.

Security and maintenance of the site

Between their own site visits and the ‘work’ of urban explorers and community litter pickers it became sadly clear that both security and maintenance on the site were less than adequate. Break-ins began to happen. This despite the team quite literally begging SBC/Seven Capital to do something about security.

Back in January the team asked for heating and ventilation to be operational to prevent structural damage. All fell on stony ground.

The team have seen many photographs of the dire condition the Oasis is in now.

NB: The contents of this blog are a condensed record of a great deal of tweeting and emailing and Internet research etc, etc, etc undertaken by the SOS team. I couldn’t put every single item into this blog or it would have even longer than it is now. If you want to know more then I urge you to contact the team via their Facebook page or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaveOasis

To conclude … for the moment …

Given all the above and given that GLL, who operate the Oasis, ripped out lighting and all the gym equipment when the announcement came that the Oasis would remain closed after lockdown, there’s no way it could re-open now.

Irrespective of the listing application currently in place.


That’s all for now – we wait with bated breath for Historic Engjand’s decision.

Related: https://swindonian.me/2021/04/14/swindons-oasis-the-last-of-its-kind/

See also: