THE DECISION to extend opening hours at a recently refurbished pool in Abingdon has been called a 'good start' by swimmers but still 'lacks ambition'.

Vale of White Horse District Council, which owns Abbey Meadow outdoor pool, and GLL, which manages the pool, announced changes last week after the Oxford Mail highlighted residents' frustration that those with jobs were missing out.

From tomorrow the pool will now be open from 8.30am until 7pm, Monday to Friday – an extra half an hour in the morning and an extra hour in the evening.

Naomi Richardson, from the Abbey Meadow Consultation Group, said: "It is definitely a good start, especially in the evening, and we are pleased the council and pool operator have listened to feedback but it has taken a long time for this to happen and the morning session is still not early enough for someone working a regular 9-5 job."

She added: "With such good weather this summer it has been a perfect opportunity to be flexible with opening times and see what works."

The recent heatwave combined with a £1.3m revamp at the community attraction, which saw the two original pools combined, as well as a beach-style sloped entrance and improved changing rooms, has seen swimmers flock to Abbey Meadow.

Since it reopened on 16 June, the pool had hosted more than 13,000 swims, with the majority of sessions fully booked.

Ms Richardson said: "We have this amazing facility but the council and GLL still seem to be lacking in ambition. I think the feeling is that if they open earlier in the morning then that will take away from the amount of people using the leisure centre. But my sense from speaking to people is there are a group who wouldn't go swimming in the morning at the leisure centre but because of the novelty of the outdoor pool would love to swim there."

She suggested trialling earlier morning sessions, even if these were ‘half’ sessions of lane swimming at a reduced cost for some quick laps before work.

Ms Richardson added: "You could do a couple a week just to assess demand and see how it goes, or even alternate so close earlier on some days so you don't have to stay open longer."

Both the Vale and GLL have said they will continue to monitor use at the pool.

Speaking about the extended hours, Alice Badcock, Vale Cabinet member for leisure, said: “It’s so fantastic to see how popular this much-loved local pool has become since its rebuild. We’re delighted that we can extend the pool’s opening hours so even more people can enjoy it.”

Ben Whaymand, partnership manager for GLL, added: "We’re delighted to be able to extend opening hours this summer, to ensure that as many local residents as possible can enjoy pool time.”