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Anaconda Swimming Club demands new pool – on the Holloway Prison site

PUBLISHED: 15:19 20 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:38 20 September 2017

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly Hancock

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Islington’s sole competitive swimming club has started a last-ditch campaign to build a pool on the Holloway Prison site.

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: John Donovan Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: John Donovan

Anaconda Swimming Club said it’s a “once in a generation” opportunity to create a swimming legacy in Islington.

The club currently has to split sessions between five pools across the borough. It claims all of these are “unfit for purpose”.

Islington Council is consulting on draft plans for the future of the site, which closed as a women’s prison in summer last year.

Among key suggestions are between 600 and 900 new homes, targeting 50 per cent as affordable. The town hall has also suggested a green space and women’s centre.

But Anaconda is making a late bid for an eight-lane pool to be part of considerations. Chiefs handed out letter templates to parents on Monday night, asking them to send signed copies to council leader Richard Watts.

Chairman Andy Iwaniec told the Gazette: “There have been a lot of good intentions at Islington on building a fully functioning swimming pool but it’s never happened. The Holloway Prison site is the perfect place for this social infrastructure.

Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly Hancock Islington's Anaconda Swimming Club is campaigning for a new pool at the former Holloway Prison site. Picture: Polly Hancock

“Why on earth wouldn’t it be given serious consideration? Any redevelopment of more than 200 units ought to have leisure facilities for it to be considered as part of Islington policy.

“We are up against a huge political agenda about social housing, which we completely understand. But why do you have to have one without the other? You could put homes on top of the pool. You could have the pool underground.”

Not-for-profit Anaconda is currently operating at full capacity, teaching 500 children but unable to expand.

“It’s a nightmare for our teachers,” Mr Iwaniec said. “The facilities are totally inadequate. Our HQ is at Cally Pool, where both ends are shallow and there is no viewing gallery.

“Some of our best competitors have to beg to get slots at the Olympic pool, or in Hackney. We are very much the poor cousins in Islington. There is nowhere for us to hold a swimming gala.

“If you look at groups like Camden Swiss Cottage Swimming Club, they are twice as big as us. So they can teach twice as many children, and get twice as many active. A big pool at Holloway would make a huge difference.”

Islington’s consultation runs until October 2. Visit islington.gov.uk/consultations

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