10 Messages from Local People On The Future of Northfield Pool and Leisure Centre


It was great to see over 100 people attend last night’s meeting on the future of Northfield’s pool and leisure centre.

There were a great deal of excellent points made by residents at the meeting. There is not space to cover them all. However, I took ten key clear messages from the meeting. I heard that people in the Northfield area:

1. Want a high quality leisure facility and pool. The specification of any new pool – including pool length – should reflect this

2. Understand that, although much loved and with a long heritage, the current Northfield pool building cannot provide that for the future. Another decade of make do and mend is not good enough and it would still cost a great deal of money

3. Have different views on whether in Northfield town centre is still the best location at which to build a new pool and leisure centre, given questions around accessibility, space needed and likely cost – or whether it would be better to build the new facility at the alternative location being considered by the Council – i.e on the Longbridge redevelopment site opposite Longbridge railway station.

4. Welcome the assurances given by the Council that the existing pool should stay open until a new pool is built (unless of course it is built on the existing site – as you can’t keep a pool open while simultaneously knocking it down!

5. Want to be assured that all options are being considered, not only the existing site and Longbridge – and if other sites suggested are being rejected, the reasons why.

6. Are concerned that the public consultation period is taking place over the summer holiday period, with the City Council’s Cabinet currently planning to make a decision in September.

7. Want the existing frontage of the existing pool building preserved if a new pool is built elsewhere, believe that early work should be done by the Council to identify possible community use of at least part of the site, and want to ensure that any alternative use of the site should promote the regeneration of Northfield town centre, rather than drain economic activity away from it.

8. Are concerned about privatisation, and believe that if pools and leisure centres (whether new ones or existing one) are run by outside operators under a contract with the Council rather than by the Council itself, it should not be an excuse for paying employees poor wages or providing them with bad conditions of service. Council spokespeople said that conditions would be protected under TUPE regulations on transfer and that under the Council’s social responsibility charter, all contractors should pay the Living Wage and offer training and other opportunities.

9. Believe that any building or rebuilding work should also bring jobs and training opportunities for local people.

10.   Want to be confident that any new facility would be accessible and affordable, honouring the City Council’s concessionary schemes for using leisure facilities and making sure that the times for concessionary use are realistic.


I have commented on what I think has been shallow politicking by Conservatives in Northfield on this issue before. Sadly some of this was on display again at last night’s meeting and even more of it is once again being peddled through social media today. I won’t spend a lot of time on it right now as I think most residents see through it anyway. Suffice to say:

A) Tory claims that there have not been clear assurances on the existing pool staying open until a new one is built are false – see above.

B) Local Tories are incorrect to claim that the current Northfield pool was anticipated to have a usable life of 25 years after its 2003/4 refurbishment. It was 10-15 years. I know. I was there. In any case, if the current pool is not up to scratch, why delay replacing it with a better one?

C) Misleading statements were made at the meeting about my own position. You can read my real views here, and follow links for earlier articles for further information.


Working with Councillor Brett O’Reilly (who hosted yesterday’s meeting) and other local Labour Councillors, I am following up residents’ concerns with Council. I am conscious that in order to get tenders out and contracts awarded in time to get a new pool and leisure centre built and open by 2017, the Council cannot hang around. The fact that decisions about the future would need to be made around now was known when the existing pool was last refurbished in 2003. But no planning or budgeting at all appeared to be done in the eight years the Conservatives ran the Council between 2004 and 2012. So a great deal of time has already been wasted, and more dithering will help nobody.

Even so, there is a clear message from local people that they want more information, more feedback and a longer opportunity to have their say. I am making some suggestions to the Council about how I think that could be achieved without jeopardising a 2017 target for a new pool and leisure centre. I will report back on that after I have had the opportunity to discuss these with the Council at senior level.


In the meantime, you can still have your say via Birmingham’s Be Heard website and directly to me by e-mailing richard.burden.mp@parliament.uk

Thanks to all who have responded so far. Keep them coming!





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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.