Socialist Worker

Sedgemoor Splash occupiers: ‘We want a swimming pool, not a Tesco’

Issue No. 2167

Sedgemoor Splash occupiers were inspired by Vestas

Sedgemoor Splash occupiers were inspired by Vestas

Protesters occupied Sedgemoor Splash swimming pool in Bridgwater, Somerset for 24 hours last week against council plans to bulldoze it – and sell the land to Tesco.

The occupation started at 3pm on Friday after the Tory-run council announced plans to shut the town’s only pool.

Glen Burrows of the Bristol RMT union spoke to Socialist Worker from inside the occupation on Friday.

She said, “There’s a single bidder for the site – Tesco. The council just wants the money. But we need another supermarket like we need a hole in the head.”

About 30 people joined the “swim-in”, including trade unionists, local councillors, disabled pool users, pensioners and young people.

“We got the idea from the occupation on the Isle of Wight,” said Glen. “We had a public meeting with a Vestas worker a few weeks ago. It was so inspiring.

“People love this pool. It’s like any small town. We’ve lost the post office, we’re losing this – what next, the library?

“It’s time to say enough is enough.”

The council chief executive had offered a seven-day “stay of execution” for the pool if the protest ended sooner – but the occupiers refused the paltry offer.

The occupation only ended on Saturday after the council got a court injunction.

The pool then closed for good at 4pm on Sunday.

For the remaining days of swimming the council made visitors sign a form stating they were only coming to the pool to swim, not to occupy.

The court order bans several protesters from re‑entering the site at all. The council also intends to pursue them for court costs and “loss of revenue” – even though the occupiers had stated they were happy for swimming to continue during their protest.

Council officers earlier tried locking the doors of the pool to prevent anyone else from joining the occupation. They stopped food getting in and played loud announcements at night over the tannoy system – but it did not deter the protesters.

Labour councillor Brian Smedley, who was part of the occupation, said, “The council says there’s no money to save the Splash – but they seem to have plenty when it comes to hiring bouncers and lawyers to smash peaceful protesters.

“The council’s reaction has been harsh and vindictive.”

Supporters outside the pool applauded as the protesters left the occupation – and vowed to fight on. They have issued a legal challenge to the closure, attempting to take it to a judicial review.

“We don’t want a Tesco – we want a swimming pool,” says Glen. “We’ll be here to stop the bulldozers. We won’t let them do this.”

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Tue 1 Sep 2009, 19:16 BST
Issue No. 2167
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