Sunday, 19 September 2021
HENLEY leisure centre is filthy despite undergoing a £150,000 renovation only two months ago.
Visitors have complained of dirty changing areas and broken equipment and staff failing to take action despite complaints.
It is a repeat of the findings of a Henley Standard exposé in February last year before the refurbishment carried out by South Oxfordshire District Council, which owns the centre in Gillotts Lane.
At the time, the council’s contractor Better blamed its former cleaning company and pledged to make improvements.
Now one of the council’s own members has demanded immediate improvements.
The latest complaints include:
• Dirty floors and showers with the drains and shower heads clogged with hair.
• Used plasters in the swimming pool and changing area.
• Only cold or tepid water in the showers.
• A broken hairdryer and heaters blowing only cold air.
Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury, 75, of Woodlands Road, Sonning Common, has been appalled by the conditions she found when visiting twice a week for aqua aerobics classes in the swimming pool.
She said: “I’ve been going to the pool for two-and-a-half years and it has got gradually worse over that time.
“I’m unhappy because they spent £150,000 on primarily cosmetic changes. The work that has been done does not help how horrible the rest of it is.
“There are new lockers and lighting but the basics like the flooring have not been done — they are old and dirty.
“The showers are cold, tepid at best. When we come out of the pool we should be able to come into a warm, clean and dry changing room instead of being dumped into a cold and damp place.
“The shutter door and drain between the changing room and the pool is pretty disgusting. We try not to look at it. There are plasters on the floor — it’s revolting.
“Frequent requests for hot water in the showers or cleaner poolside conditions are met with polite assurance that ‘something will be done’.”
Mrs Phillips-Tilbury, a Sonning Common parish councillor, complained in writing to the general manager of the centre and to Councillor Lynn Lloyd, the district council’s cabinet member for community services, urging them to take action but received no response.
She said: “Perhaps the Henley Standard can elicit a response. It’s a case of desperation contacting the paper as my letters have not been acknowledged.” She also raised the issue with Paul Harrison, the district councillor for the Sonning Common ward, at a parish council meeting last month.
Mrs Phillips-Tilbury had a fixed spinal fusion a few years ago and the classes were recommended to her to help keep her active.
She said: “You pay to go in and it’s council property so it’s in their interests to provide somewhere good to swim. People my age are not able to run and need some activities we can do.”
She urged Cllr Lloyd to visit the centre unannounced to see the problems for herself.
“I want to show her round and ask her exactly how she would find the funding to do the job properly,” she said.
Laura Reineke, of Berkshire Road, Henley, said had noticed problems with yhe cleanliness since the renovation was completed.
She visits about four times a week to swim. Mrs Reineke said: “It has never been great there but it has been worse since they closed the changing rooms to do them up.
“I swim in the river a lot and the river is cleaner than the leisure centre. The floor is the worst but there has been mud on the walls and the drains full of hair. The bottom of the pool is filthy with plasters and hair.
“Cleanliness has always been a problem but I thought they were doing the work and the cleaning would improve with it.
“I don’t understand why they don’t have one of those machines to go around cleaning the bottom of the pool. The cleaning just needs to be managed more effectively.”
Stefan Gawrysiak, a Henley district councillor, said he had made an unannounced inspection last week and did not like what he found.
He said: “Better needs to do better. There are ongoing issues with cleanliness at the sports centre. I don’t think the company is taking enough pride in its work.
“People are walking around with bare feet and going swimming so cleanliness is of real importance.
“We want Better to improve their performance consistently so members of the public and I do not have to be chasing them up on this every few days. I want standards to be consistently high.”
Councillor Gawrysiak said he would return to the centre next week with council officers and members of the management team.
He also plans to make more unannounced inspections in the future.
Last year’s renovation included new changing cubicles, lockers and vanity units for the swimming area. The council said the facilities needed updating because they looked tired and dated after 10 years.
A Better spokesman said: “Cleaning is always a challenge at a busy centre like Henley. We are listening to concerns and are also reviewing our cleaning rotas.
“Most of the reported problems have already been fixed and the hot water is now more reliable following a £19,000 upgrade to the boilers.
“We are always keen to hear from customers regarding their experience in our leisure centres.
“We have regular unannounced visits from the council to audit our facilities and we use this feedback to help to improve our services.
“South Oxfordshire District Council recently invested £150,000 to refurbish the swimming pool changing area and this work has been positively received by many customers.
“To help ensure dirt from the outside doesn’t get into the poolside area we also ask that customers ro wear plastic overshoes, which are provided free of charge at the centre.”
The district council refused to comment.
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