IT’S been gone for more than a decade, but the swimming pool which was once part of the BIC is still fondly remembered.

The reaction to a photo recently published in the Daily Echo of the pool and its water slide showed how many people enjoyed it.

Indoor swimming had been an attraction near Bournemouth seafront since 1838, when the first baths were opened at the Pier Approach. They were replaced by another building in 1887 and a third in 1937.

That 1937 building – originally for people to get clean, dive or enjoy a swim – was also a venue for competitive swimming, as well as the aqua shows that were enjoyed for generations.

But by the early 1980s, plans were well advanced for a conference centre, including a swimming pool, on the West Cliff. It would be a fun pool rather than one suitable for competitions.

The baths closed in 1984, and on September 6 that year, the BIC officially opened – containing two conference halls and a pool.

The pool, with its artificial wave, was popular with both locals and tourists. And in 1986, Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew was at the BIC to open its new hydro-slide.

But the success of the BIC meant the days of swimming in the conference centre were numbered.

Events such as the Labour conference of 1999 – said to be Europe’s biggest political gathering up to to that point – stretched its facilities to the limit. BIC bosses said the centre needed more exhibition space if it was to compete in the marketplace with big new conference centres.

Many swimmers were unhappy, and the summer of 2003 saw a campaign under the slogan Save the Wave.

David Stokes, a pool user and Labour activist, was among the campaigners. “It’s something that really seems to have got people upset,” he said.

Conservative Michael Filer, who had opened the BIC as mayor, said: “Those who are concerned about Bournemouth’s history will know that when the BIC was built it was regarded as essential that the centre was not just for visitors, conferences and exhibitions and the occasional show for locals but it had to provide wet weather facilities and a central swimming pool area with all the amenities to replace the Pier Approach baths.”

Swimmer Patricia Allison said: “I’m disabled and it’s an easy pool for me to get into. I don’t know what’s going to happen if we can’t use it. A lot of people are in their 80s who use that pool.”

Young people who used the pool lobbied the full council that July, but to no avail.

Ironically, council leaders also argued that closing the pool would help free up money to save the town’s Winter Gardens – which was a “price worth paying” to preserve the concert hall.

In fact, the Winter Gardens, which had closed the year before, would be demolished in 2006.

By 2004, a £22million upgrade of the BIC was under way. It meant a much bigger Windsor Hall, allowing for major tours by singing stars and comedians. And there was the extra exhibition space, with the Solent Hall standing where the pool had once been.

But for the first time since the mid-Victorian era, the general public would have no indoor swimming attraction in the town centre.