MEMBERS of an open water swimming club are fighting to keep a public changing area afloat, which is threatened by the planned redevelopment of a beachfront pavilion.

The club, Poole Lifeguard Open Waters Swimmers – known as PLOWS – is a group of around 50 swimmers.

They say the planned redevelopment of Canford Cliffs Pavilion, Canford Cliffs, Poole, will spell the end of the changing area

Anna Harris, member and wife of group founder, said: "We are a diverse group of swimmers, with members ranging in age from 20 to 82, from all walks of life – united by our passion for sea swimming.

"We are not a formal group, but our swimmers include channel swimmers, lifeguards and others like myself who are more modest in their swimming endeavours."

Anna says the planning application lodged with BCP Council, to redevelop the pavilion into a cafe, will result in the loss of a safe, dry place to store swimmers' belongings and a sheltered changing space.

She said: "As we swim all year round, whatever the conditions and weather, this space makes all the difference."

BCP Council agreed a £7.3million scheme last year, which included plans to expand the pavilion, build new beach huts and upgrade existing ones.

As part of this overall project it is proposed the existing shelter be converted to a cafe with outdoor terrace, toilets refurbished, a new ranger's station built and the ice cream kiosk demolished.

The wider scheme also incorporated a £3.1 million project to stabilise the cliffs at Canford Cliffs, which was due to start in earnest this week.

PLOWS also disagree with some of the conclusions BCP Council has come to, including the statement the pavilion is 'underused'.

Anna says the club's own survey shows 68 per cent of respondents have increased their use of the pavilion since March, this year, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.

"The redevelopment of the changing area is based on five year-old plans that do not reflect the current national focus on active lives and exercise, or the current nature and level of use of the area," said Anna.

"We’ve done a lot of research to support our case, conducted a survey to evidence the need for the changing facility and organised a petition.

"We are proposing that a focus on improving recreational facilities (for example, paid lockers, sports tuition, retention of the changing area), rather than decreasing them, as well as retaining a small food outlet, can also benefit the local economy.

"It's not an 'either or' choice - a more progressive approach can, and should, be taken so that both public health and business aims can be achieved."

A BCP Council spokesman said: "INSERT"

Members of th epublic can comment on the plans for the pavilion via BCP Council's website.

Visit to back the petition.