Barrenjoey Swim School has been given hope of staying open following a meeting with Northern Beaches Council.
At an on-site meeting on Thursday (03 March) with Northern Beaches Council CEO Ray Brownlee and Director of Planning and Place Louise Kerr, Barrenjoey Swim School operators Lucie and Damian Geyle (main image, left and centre) were offered a reprieve by Council.
Following the announcement of the Council order for the swim school to close at Patrick Street, Avalon Beach, speculation on the source of complaints mounted on social media, focused on a nearby resident who had allegedly been argumentative with swim school patrons.
However, a well-placed source within Council has advised the Northern Beaches Advocate that the complaints did not come from a single source and there were reasonable issues of amenity the school would have to address.
According to Mr Geyle, who was nervous about the meeting, Mr Brownlee set him at ease by saying the Council wanted to help them resolve the issues which had led to complaints about the school’s operation.
“He said, ‘Let me set your mind at ease, I’m not here to close you down’ and that’s where the meeting started. I felt relieved when he said that,” revealed Mr Geyle.
The meeting outlined the two key issues that the swim school need to address, noise and traffic congestion, and according to Mr Geyle, while Council had some suggestions, they were not prescriptive in the solutions, asking them to come up with some ideas to resolve the issues while remaining in operation.
“They said we had a couple of months, and asked us to start working on some possible alterations on how we operate our business which could tackle the noise and traffic issues.
“They didn’t make a bunch of demands or things that they wanted us to do. What they’ve asked is for us to come up with some manageable ideas that will allow us to continue to keep teaching all the kids we teach. Anything’s open, all the ideas are going to start to flow now,” said Mr Geyle.
Lucie and Damian Geyle say they are grateful for the public response to their plight, believing it gave them the opportunity to sit down with Council and address the concerns.
“I think all that media attention and all that public attention helped. Everyone penned so many letters to the councillors, and I think that was what got us over the line.
“Council thought this is a bigger issue, why don’t we open dialogue. That’s all we wanted, if there’s a problem, let’s fix it. Now we know what the problem is, we’ve got a chance to address it, which is brilliant,” said Mr Geyle.
Embracing the support Barrenjoey Swim School has received following the notice of closure, Mr Geyle said although they have some ideas, they remain open to all solutions. They are seeking to consult with stakeholders, including their neighbours, on the issues of noise and traffic congestion.
“We’re consulting our customers, we’re going to ask what they think would be workable for them as parents and what we think would be workable as the school operators. Collectively, we’re all going to be able to put some good ideas on the table, and then hash them out and see how they’ll work.
“We’re allowing everybody to have a bit of a say, we’re thinking of maybe a little work group that can hash out some ideas that would work. Lucie and I may not have all the solutions. Solutions might be provided to us by some of our parents. We’re open to everything.
“We don’t want to say what our ideas are just yet because if everybody hears an idea, they might be stuck on that idea. If fresh people come up with ideas, then they are all fresh ideas.
“We can look at everything that is being put forward, not only from us but even our neighbours. There are neighbours that have a stake in this as well. We’ll be asking what the ideas are that can help everybody,” said Mr Geyle.
Image: Northern Beaches Advocate (L-R, Lucie Geyle, Damian Geyle, swim instructor Nick Pateras)