Permanent closure of Walls pool ‘inevitable’ unless energy costs can be cut back

“DRASTIC action” is needed to save the Walls swimming pool from permanent closure as rising energy bills threaten its viability.

But a wind turbine and solar panels could be the small pool’s saviour in reducing its energy costs, which for electricity has peaked at around £12,000 a year.

The association which runs the private pool has now applied for planning permission for a 5kW wind turbine.

Chairman Jim Robertson said its energy bills are unsustainable and warned that there could be no other option but to close up for good if no alternative energy sources were installed.

The facility, which has been open for more than two decades and is run by volunteers, features a pool and sauna.

It has remained closed since the Covid pandemic struck in 2020, but the hope is to reopen later down the line if the energy situation can be resolved.

Robertson said there is significant energy usage just to keep the pool facilities going, such as the circulation, filtration and ventilation systems.

He said costs have more than doubled, and it is “inevitable” that the pool will permanently close unless things change. 

“The way that it would be operating just now, it wouldn’t be financially viable, it couldn’t support itself,” Robertson said.

“So you’re going to have to get alternative energy sources in before you could even consider opening it.”

The facility is run by the Walls Swimming Pool Association, and a new committee of volunteers is in place.

Robertson said the pool has been popular with people both in the area and elsewhere in Shetland, partly due to the fact that it is private.

This has benefitted people in the past with additional support needs, for instance, or folk who perhaps do not have the body confidence to enter a public pool.

But the association chairman said by the time the pool could reopen following Covid restrictions, energy bills had risen to the point where the team felt they could not open the doors again. 

“Once we looked at all the figures, we realised that we had to take pretty drastic action to be able to reopen it,” Robertson said.

Some of the equipment, including in the plant room, is also a “bit tired”, and external funding could be explored.

Robertson said it was a “reasonably sized pool”, while there is also the sauna, disabled toilets and a lift for helping folk with additional needs into the water.

“There’s a broad range of people that will use it in Shetland,” he added.

“There’s people that come right from the south end that come to the pool, and all over. It’s maybe the last in Shetland that’s completely privately hired, and that’s a big attraction to people.”

One key element is that it can be hired out at times to suit people’s schedules.

“We’ve even had it hired out to people on Christmas Day in the past,” Robertson said. “You’re definitely not going for a public swimming session on Christmas Day.”

Shetland News