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Decade of Decline: Benefits of building a new pool and how valuable facilities are

The 14 words were to the point but made for grim reading.

Swim England warns almost 2,000 pools could be lost forever by end of decade’ read the headline on swimming.org and publications around the country.

The A Decade of Decline: The Future of Swimming Pools in England report highlighted the fears of Swim England on what could happen without vital investment in facilities.

Despite the worrying predication, operators have detailed the benefits of building a new pool – while others have shown how valuable facilities continue to be for local communities.

Here we highlight some of those stories…

St Sidwell’s Point

St Sidwell’s Point pool, in Exeter, will become the first swimming pool in the UK to meet the ‘Passivhaus’ energy efficiency standard when it opens shortly. 

It is expected to save the local council £200,000 each year in energy costs alone, meaning it would take fewer than 10 years to pay back the increased construction costs. 

Advances in technology, such as microfiltration, enables the pool operator to waste less water and use fewer chemicals, resulting in further savings in heating and enhancing the swimming experience. 

Spelthorne Leisure Centre 

Spelthorne Leisure Centre is a cutting-edge, exemplar community hub, located in the centre of Staines-upon-Thames.

The scheme will be one of the first certified Passivhaus wet and dry sport and leisure facilities in the UK, contributing towards the borough’s zero-carbon objectives, and using the principles of inclusive design to ensure long-lasting community value.

The state-of-the-art leisure centre includes an eight lane, 25m pool, four lane 20m teaching pool (with a moving floor) and splash pad.

The overall design has been optimised to meet the strict targets set by the Passivhaus Institute, which will reduce operational energy usage by around 80 per cent. Additionally, careful material selection informed by building biology principles, ensures a comfortable and healthy indoor environment for all end-users and staff.

The multi-zoned, complex nature of the project demonstrates the industry’s capability to reduce carbon and energy demand across complex sport and leisure facilities and is leading the way for a new wave of sustainable sport and leisure facilities in the UK.

The Passivhaus certified design methodology created for Spelthorne Leisure Centre will result in energy savings of 50 to 60 per cent compared to standard facilities, with an addition water saving of between 40 and 50 per cent. 

Sandwell Leisure Trust

Sandwell Leisure Trust’s nine facilities have helped to deliver £16.5 million of social value back to the local community.

The social value report measures and benchmarks the contribution services make on improved health, improved subjective wellbeing, increased educational attainment and reduced crime – and is a key measure of how charitable and leisure operators contribute back to their local areas.

Meanwhile, the charity’s Reach Project, funded by the National Lottery’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF), sought to increase the confidence and self-esteem of some 120 individuals by re-introducing them into Sandwell Leisure Trust centres and back towards a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Nearly 90 per cent said it had a positive impact on their mental health, 89 per cent were motivated to improve their activity levels, 74 per cent felt it has improved their sleep and 68 per cent their general eating habits.

Ash Ria, Sandwell Leisure Trust CEO, said: “We have managed to navigate one of the worst crises to hit the leisure industry in our lifetime, whilst maintaining national award winning and safe services. 

“Some others have unfortunately not re-opened, handed services back and made large redundancies, but we want our positive example to give hope to other operators.

“Ours is a confident but cautious approach and we’re encouraged to see an enthusiastic return by our customers, even though it may take some time to get attendances back to pre-Covid levels again. 

“The signs are certainly promising and we are actively recruiting again – with, for example, over 60 applicants applying for a part-time receptionist post.”

Parkwood Leisure

Parkwood Leisure has reached a record number of children enrolled on its Learn to Swim Programme – exceeding the number of registrations before the pandemic.

The total number of children signed up to swimming lessons is now 105 per cent of March 2020 figures – and since indoor pools reopened in April 2021, sites have also received more than 3,250 swimming lesson enquiries.

Parkwood Leisure runs 44 swimming pools across England and Wales. 

Suzanne Gabb, Head of Aquatics at Parkwood Leisure, said: “This is a huge milestone in our recovery from the pandemic, and testament to the quality of our swimming programme, as well as the dedication of our many swim teachers and managers.

“Being able to swim remains an essential life skill for anyone, and helping children get back into the water and learn to swim safely is incredibly important to us.”

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