Dundee’s state-of-the-art £31 million Olympia swimming pool will be closed until at least the end of 2022 so essential repairs can be made less than a decade into its existence.
A £4.5 million scheme of works was approved by councillors last year that will see swathes of the Olympia’s interior, including its iconic flumes, ripped out to fix problematic fixtures at risk of dropping lighting, speakers and windows onto swimmers below.
Engineers identified problems with light fixtures in September 2021, forcing the pool to close in October.
The reasons for the closure were not made public until several weeks later, and the affair has left council bosses embarrassed as the building is less than a decade old.
A report presented to councillors late last year suggested that the Olympia will likely re-open at the end of 2022 at the very earliest – perhaps even next year.
The new Olympia was opened by SNP MSP Shona Robison in September 2013 but has been plagued with problems ever since.
It was built by construction giant Balfour Beatty, which has since been handed a number of other major Dundee building projects including flood protection works and the city’s £28m railway station entrance.
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Balfour Beatty was among six shortlisted contractors that made an offer to build the new pool and came in at the lowest price, around £4.6 million below the most expensive bid.
Any savings made by opting for the lower offer are set to be canceled out by the £4.5m cost of the major refurbishment along with bills for previous repairs.
Just a year after it was opened councilors were asked to spend £80,000 on “operational enhancements” to the Olympia when water seeped into its main plant room.
And in 2018, elected members were asked again to spend nearly £210,000 on new light fittings.
Members of the council’s arms-length Leisure and Culture body were also reported to have expressed concerns about the building’s health after a 2017 report identified “corrosion” problems in the main pool area.
On Thursday, Dundee City Council’s scrutiny committee will review what has gone wrong with the swimming pool project – along with the botched roof replacement scheme that is costing taxpayers another £4.5 million.
Labor councilor Richard McCready, who sits on the committee, said a “pattern” of poor building maintenance appears to be emerging.
Earlier this month Dundee Live reported that £1.2 million was set to be spent on repairing heating systems in the council’s HQ at Dundee House – a building the authority doesn’t own after auctioning it off to a Canadian insurance company and leasing it back.
Cllr McCready said: “I’m hoping for full clarity with full exposure of what’s going on in the council’s building management team.
“There appears to be a pattern emerging of things not being done properly and we need to make sure that’s not the case.
“Council officers need to be properly supported and if there’s a systematic failure we need to stop that as soon as possible.
“This is money that shouldn’t have to be spent on this.
“If things were done to spec we need to know why the spec wasn’t right – or if they weren’t, we need to take serious action to get the taxpayers of Dundee some kind of redress.
“At this point, I’m not sure I have faith that any building done recently has been done properly, because the evidence suggests otherwise.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.