CAMPAIGNERS who are fighting to prevent the planned closure of Purley's swimming pool say the council is vastly overestimating the cost of keeping it open, and underestimating the impact the closure will have on 150,000 people in the south of the borough.
The decision to close the pool in April, revealed last week as the council's proposed 2015/16 budget was published, was heavily criticised by representatives of the Save Purley Pool campaign and Conservative councillors last night (Wednesday) during a council scrutiny meeting.
Council leader Tony Newman, of the ruling Labour group, said a new report, which would be published, had been produced in the last few months which showed the pool was in a "dangerous" state of disrepair.
The assertion the pool is a health and safety risk has since been denied by members the council's previous Conservative administration and campaigners.
Cllr Newman also said that though the budget showed a saving of around £750,000 from closing the pool, it would cost "many, many more millions than that to make it useable in the long term".
But Fred Wallis, of campaign group Save Purley Pool, claimed it would cost far less than that to keep the pool open, and dismissed reports of the building being "dangerous".
"When they talk about the dilapidated building they're living in cuckoo land. It's nonsense, we've been there this morning swimming and it's fine. They talk about the ceiling falling down, there's no such danger."
Councillor Phil Thomas, the cabinet member responsible for the pool under the previous Conservative administration, told the Advertiser this morning: "On no occasion did officers ever tell me there were any problems with health and safety."
Cllr Newman had, he said, "spun a story" on the state of the pool to "dig himself out of a hole".
During the meeting, Mr Wallis questioned whether it would cost £750,000 to keep the pool open next year.
He said: "The fact is they don't need to spend the amount of money they say to keep it open, the expenditure would only be around £20,000 to £50,000."
Cllr Newman said he had no reason to believe officers' estimates on the cost of keeping the pool open were false or misleading.
Mr Wallis also said it was unfair that the administration planned to spend £17million on a new pool in New Addington, while closing Purley.
"Why can't they spare some of that money to keep ours in Purley open?
"I spoke to a disabled swimmer yesterday who uses the pool as exercise for her back pain, she said 'this is my lifeline, if I can't swim, I'll be a cripple', and there are hundreds like her.
"Altogether, this is going to affect 150,000 people in the south of the borough. We heard talk a few years ago of a new pool between Coulsdon and Purley, but there's none of that now."
Questions were also raised, by Councillor Jason Cummings as to why the council couldn't spend some of £1million of non-earmarked reserves to keep the pool open, at least until a reasonable alternative was found or redevelopment plans firmed up.
But Cllr Newman dismissed the idea as it would "delay the much needed regeneration of Purley" which, he said, would be made possible after the pool's closure.
"You are overlooking the fact we have a brand new facility in Waddon.
"If you spend £750,000 on Purley pool that's other work the council can't do or job losses elsewhere."
Conservative Councillor Sara Bashford raised concerns about the "limited" parking spaces at Waddon, which number around 30, something Cllr Newman said "would be looked at".
Mr Wallis' petition to save the pool has so far attracted more than 600 signatures.