Ladywell Pool saved: A remarkable victory for Lewisham and Max Calo
At last night’s Mayor and Cabinet meeting, the Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock performed a surprising U-turn and effectively saved the Ladywell Leisure Centre by opting for the Lewisham Bridge Primary School site for a new secondary school. This brings to an end some two years of controversy over the future of Lewisham’s biggest swimming pool, and while the roll call of protestors is long, the activism was chiefly piloted by Max Calo, who deserves the fullest of praise.
The decision will now mean that the Ladywell pool will remain open until a promised replacement is built in Loampit Vale in 2010. Previously, Ladywell was due to be knocked down next year to make way for the new school, and Lewisham would have had to wait three years, possible more, for a replacement. Residents were not happy at the prospect of going without this leisure facility considering Lewisham Council’s track record of delay: The old Downham pool closed in 1995, and amid delays that even baffled the Mayor, its replacement in 2007 will be three years later than planned. The pools at Forest Hill closed in March this year due to health and safety concerns, but the final report into its problems will not be completed until later this month. Small wonder that the Ladywell pool became a sore issue for electors during May’s local Government elections. Many pro-Government councillors in the area lost their seats as protestors vented their anger through the ballot box. It was a major element in turning Lewisham into a municipal authority with no overall political control.
It seems to me that in an age of cynicism about politics, it is still possible to defy the odds with a well thought out and properly executed grass roots campaign. Max Calo made this his fight with an excellent website. He did his homework and built up an impressive array of allies across the political spectrum. His relentless push to uncover Council reports and relevant research into the issue kept him forever relevant. He needed no political party to give him `leverage’ or `ownership’ of an issue. He went out there and did it, and his influence was borne out of his determined and focused contribution. He stands out as a role model for all those who tire of politics as usual. Well done, Max.