Swimmers furious that their outdoor pool remains descended on Abingdon's Abbey Meadow armed with placards and towels to protest that its opening days have been more than halved.

Abbey Meadow pool's opening times have been cut from 100 days to just 42, due to the cost of heating the pool.

Swimmers say this is a "wasted opportunity" to bring people to the town and took to the pool on what they say should have been its opening day – Saturday. The date, May 28, is when the pool opened before the pandemic.

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Friends of Abbey Meadow Outdoor Pool (FOAMOP) have been fighting for the lido since 2005 when the poolwas under threat of being closed for good.

In 2014, £1.3m was put aside for a refurbishment which allowed swimmers to dive back into the much-loved pool.

Now campaigners say it is "completely mad" that the pool will only be open from July 25 for just six weeks of the year.

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Group member Elizabeth Simpson said: "It is a missed opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors. It improves mental health through exercise. It is also a missed opportunity to bring people into the town centre and boost struggling businesses."

Following the financial struggles of the Covid pandemic, Vale of White Horse District Council agreed a financial package with GLL, the company it employs to run the pool. The agreement sets out the summer holiday opening schedule, which will run until 2026.

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The outdoor pool is costly to run. Heating costs for the pool this season are expected to be around £107,000, compared to £47,000 in previous seasons.

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FOAMOP says it has made "imaginative" suggestions to the district council to save money so the pool can open for more days of the year.

Mrs Simpson has suggested the council could offer a cold-water pool to save the expense of heating it, open the kiosk all year round and invest in renewable energy.

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FOAMOP will meet representatives from Abingdon Town Council and senior managers from the district council next week to discuss the situation.

A spokesperson for the district council, said: "Many leisure providers and local authorities faced huge financial pressures as a result of Covid-19 and we agreed with GLL, our leisure provider, that as part of their contract we would have a shorter season for the pool.

"Now we are also facing the significant and spiralling energy costs which are not covered by the revenue the pool generates. This is by no means the only challenge the pool faces, but it does mean we have to be very cautious right now."

Read more from this author

This story was written by Rebecca Whittaker, she joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Rebecca covers education and news in Abingdon and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Rebecca.Whittaker@newquest.co.uk or calling 07824524333

Follow her on Twitter @RebecWhitt

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