GA fact check on the construction of Wasserland: What you should know about the referendum in Bonn

GA fact check on the construction of Wasserland : What you should know about the referendum in Bonn

Citizens of Bonn can vote in the referendum on the planned Wasserland swimming pool in Dottendorf until 3 August. They will make a decision that will shape swimming pools in the city for decades.

The city will start to send out the voting documents for the referendum on the future of the city’s swimming pools on Thursday. All men and women entitled to vote in local elections will have the chance to answer the voting question “Should the construction of a swimming pool in Dottendorf be stopped?” with either a yes or a no.

The Wasserland project will fall through if the majority of voters vote “yes” and the majority makes up ten per cent of those eligible to vote – that is around 25,000 votes. The first referendum on the city’s history in spring 2017 concerned broadly the same issue. At that time, a narrow majority of 51.6 per cent of the around 97,000 participants voted against saving the Kurfürstenbad. This time, there are two groups behind the attempt to stop the Wasserland pool: the groups “Kurfürstenbad bleibt!” and “Frankenbad bleibt Schwimmbad.” The city council opposition is also against the new building.

On the other side: CDU, Greens and the FDP. The coalition decided on the project in December 2017 to end the decades-long debate about swimming pools. The backlog in renovations is enormous; the Kurfürstenbad has already closed and the Beueler Bütt and two school swimming pools are currently out of action because of technical defects. The city sports association and swimming clubs support the Wasserland project, as do the heads of the city administration and the public utilities.

What will happen to the two old swimming pools?

The Kurfürstenbad plot is to be sold. The Frankenbad is to remain the property of the city and must be renovated in accordance with heritage conservation rules. The costs in the millions will depend on the later use. The city council has a leisure use in mind, possibly as a climbing hall. An external office is now to organise a workshop process. Including Wasserland, Bonn would still have 14 swimming pools from 2021: the combination pool at Hardtberg, the Römerbad, Ennertbad, Melbbad, Friesdorf and Rüngsdorf outdoor pools, the Sportpark Nord and Beueler Bütt indoor pools as well as five swimming pools in the Derletal school, Ludwig-Richter school, Rhein school, Bodelschwing school and in the Konrad Adenauer secondary school.

How does the council coalition of CDU, Greens and FDP justify its decision for the Wasserland pool?

More attractive than the old pools, optimised energy consumption, with state-of-the-art technology and disabled access – all this, along with the tax advantages, supports the new building. The swimming times for everyone, especially schools, would be extended through the year-round use and the larger water area. Wasserland is located in the middle of Bonn and easily reached by bus, train, bike and car. It also adapted to the wishes of Bonn residents: more than 2500 people took part in the citizen’s participation process. Sports clubs, teachers and other user groups were involved in workshops and planning sessions.

What are those opposed critical of?

The construction costs are too high, the economic risks too great and the entrance charge too expensive. The pool is unsuitable for school swimming because of the longer travel distances from the south and north. It would lead to more traffic. The felling of many trees in a fresh air corridor will cause environmental damage. The Nature Conservation Advisory Board has also raised concerns. The two initiatives also fear the closure of additional swimming pools.

What is the current position?

The development plan procedure is underway and the SWB is working on the design and approval planning. The council approved the amendment to the land use plan in March. If the referendum fails, the public utility company will next look for a general contractor. The Wasserland pool should open in 2021.

What happens if the referendum is successful?

The districts will have to reimburse the public utilities companies for their costs to date for planning and other things – according to their information, around 6.7 million Euros. The swimming pool debate will start all over again. Around 26 million Euros have been earmarked in the city budget for the renovation of the Hardtberg pool and the Beueler Bütt. However, there is no budget in the swimming pool plan, approved by a council majority, for the Kurfürstenbad and the Frankenbad. Without the Wasserland pool, the city administration says the whole package will have to be unwound. A new overall plan for swimming pools would then have to be prepared and approved by the council.

(Original text: Andreas Baumann / Translation: kc)

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