by Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
The wealthy owners of central London properties in Kensington and Chelsea or Westminster, have been building megabasements. Many have been turned into private swimming pools.
Who could blame the elites?! With rising temperatures, London can now push 30 degrees during hot summers. Who doesn’t want to jump into cool refreshing water?
In 2021, Sky Pool was opened at Embassy Gardens, part of a £1 billion development. This 25-metre long private pool, suspended 115 feet in the air, links two luxury blocks together. If you can afford one of these luxury flats, you get to swim between penthouses, while the rest of us watch you from sweltering streets.
Meanwhile, public swimming pools around the country are at risk from closing down because of rising energy costs. 85% of local authorities and public pool providers expect to reduce services.
Half of the country’s 4,000 public swimming pools were already at risk before the pandemic. Now, with the energy hike, 1,800 could close by 2030.
I’m a working-class child of inner London. I remember four public lidos and a choice of swimming pools within walking distance of my inner-London home — all of them affordable.
The working class has fought for access to leisure. Out of the tumultuous and revolutionary events after World War Two, we secured huge gains, particularly in cities. Public provision — parks, libraries and swimming pools — were a product of these movements.
Today we face hotter cities and rising energy bills. The right to swim is a basic human right, like the right to walk in the countryside. It should be available to all of us.