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Swimming club says ‘heart has been ripped out of community’ after local pool closed

Ashton-under-Lyne Swimming Club are one of a number of clubs up and down the country who are being impacted by the closure of their local pool.

The club, which was established in 1895, have been based at Ashton-under-Lyne swimming pool for almost 40 years but have been forced to move due to the recent closure of the facility.

With no pools now available locally, they have had to move to a pool in another town, as well as change the club’s schedule. These two aspects have had a significant impact on both volunteers and members.

Steve Shilley, chairperson at the club, explained that many of the swimmers, volunteers and staff have other hobbies and commitments meaning they may not be able to accommodate the changes, on top of the travel complications.

He said: “A lot of them are active and sporty, so they do other things. We do know, on a Wednesday, we’ll be losing a lot, as well as the staff. We don’t know yet the full impact.

“The travel will have an impact. We do know some won’t be coming. I know some used to walk to the pool, now they’re looking at getting the bus, but it just won’t be feasible for them.

“It’s going to be awful because we’ve always been like a family club, like a community. The kids come here and they’ll be here early and they’ll just be sat in a corner chatting – all of them.

“They form friendships that last forever and that will have gone because they’re just ripping them apart.

“Some will be there, some will stay friends and things like that but it’s not easy when you have to move areas.”

Value of clubs

Swim England’s latest Value of Swimming report revealed that swimming is generating social value of £2.4billion a year.

The report also discusses the value of aquatic clubs, with the network of almost 1,000 Swim England affiliated clubs up and down the country providing opportunities for around 170,000 club members, from recreational swimmers to elite athletes on talent pathways.

On the importance of these clubs, Steve continued: “Clubs are just vital for everything. Because more small clubs like ours, throughout the country, are run by volunteers.

“If only councils would look at them and think, they’re saving lives within Tameside umpteen times throughout the year.

“Especially when there’s warm weather, people are drowning in reservoirs and rivers because they’re going for a swim, and they can’t swim.

“Our numbers had gone up, we’re back up to pre-Covid numbers. Things were really going well.

“We had a lot of our young people wanting to help out and the older ones are still helping out as well. So it’s a real family affair.

“And we encourage our swimmers to then go and do lifeguarding. So they go on a lifeguarding course, a lot of them become lifeguards.

“Then they’ll do maybe their level one or level two teaching. And a lot of those at the trust we’ve just left are ex Ashton swimmers who’ve come through the club and gone on to end up working for the trust as a teacher or a lifeguard. It goes full circle.

“The closure is going to have a massive knock on effect years down the line and there’ll be a lot of swimmers and children who will miss out.”

Help save lives

The country’s pools are getting older and many are reaching, or past their lifespan. More than 1,500 pools currently in use are over 40 years of age.

Part of the reasoning behind closing the Ashton-under-Lyne swimming pool is due to the required structural repairs and the rising cost of fuel.

Swim England, as part of their ‘Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming’ campaign which runs alongside the launch of the Value of Swimming report, are calling for long-term capital investment from the Government, into the renewal of public pools and leisure centre infrastructure.

The country needs a network of modern, inclusive and environmentally sustainable facilities for local communities.

More than just investment, what is also needed is a shared vision for the future of the nation’s pools across central government departments, local government and the swimming sector, which recognises the value and contribution of swimming to the health, wellbeing and success of local communities.

On the wider impact the pool closure will have on the local community, Steve said: “The community’s going to be gone because we found out there was about 500 school children used to come Monday to Friday for swimming lessons.

“I think they had up to a thousand children come in over the seven days for private lessons. Besides us, a diving club and a mermaid club, they also had aquafit on, they had lane swims on, they used to have the gym classes on.

“A lot of the older people who have retired used to come in and do the aquafit, do all the classes. They’re going to miss out. There’s nothing, they can’t all jump on a bus or wherever now.

“They’ve just ripped the heart out of the community really.

“All these people that come to the pool, they did have a lot of GP referrals to come and use the gym and things like that.

“Well, where are they going to go now? Some people are suffering with mental health or they’ve not got the mobility to be going all over the place.

“These small pools, they help save lives.”

Click here to find out how you can support Swim England’s ‘Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming’ campaign and you can read the full Value of Swimming report here.