Walmer Paddling Pool near Deal may begin entry charge fees from next year
A paddling pool, popular with Kent families each summer, could begin charging entry fees after being free to enter for decades.
Walmer Paddling Pool's owner Dover District Council has confirmed it has drawn up and agreed a lease that permits the new management company Walmer Family Leisure to charge for entry.
But the move has attracted criticism, with one councillor saying the charge could amount to a “costly day out” for hard-up families.
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DDC has confirmed that no fee will be brought in during 2021 but has not guaranteed it will stay that way in the years to come.
The community facility attracts people from towns across Kent but was closed throughout last year because of the pandemic.
It was run by not-for-profit outfits Vista Leisure and then Your Leisure, which ran Tides Leisure Pool and Dover Leisure Centre before the new centre was built at Whitfield and is managed by Places Leisure.
Walmer Parish Council has until now been paying for its maintenance after the district council said it could not afford to.
Reacting to the news, the parish council released this statement: “The Parish Council appreciate that the families of Deal and Walmer love the paddling pool and hope that if any charges have to be made they are kept to a very token amount and the sum re-invested in the facility.”
But vice chairman Cllr Mike Eddy took a harsher approach and said: “These charges will hit the least well-off families hardest and particularly their youngest children who have already suffered from the effects of lockdown."
Dover District Council leader Cllr Trevor Bartlett has been asked to comment but because of purdah publicity restrictions ahead of next month’s local elections, says he has been advised not to.
A spokesman for Dover District Council said: “DDC is currently in advanced lease negotiations with a new operator for the paddling pool.
“The prospective operator, Walmer Family Leisure, has exciting proposals to make the pool and surrounding space much more stimulating for the children who use it.
“These proposals are very much in the early stages of design, and costs are not yet known, but there is likely to be provision in the lease for a nominal charge for children, but not accompanying adults.
“However, despite this provision existing, Walmer Family Leisure has confirmed they have no current plans to introduce charging for the paddling pool and has confirmed that there will be free entry for this facility in 2021.”
Walmer Family Leisure is linked to Manston Golf Centre Ltd which has gained planning permission to build an 18-hole adventure crazy golf course at the former putting green adjacent to the paddling pool.
Similar to the Manston attraction, it will be themed and fun, but will include local landmarks like the Goodwin Sands.