Swim England

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Swim England warns almost 2,000 pools could be lost forever by end of decade

Almost 2,000 swimming pools could be lost forever by the end of the decade unless the Government and local authorities ‘act now’ to replace or refurbish ageing facilities.

Swim England has warned in its new A Decade of Decline: The Future of Swimming Pools in England report that there will be a huge reduction in the amount of water space available by 2030, which could threaten the future of aquatic sports in some areas and leave millions shut out of the activities they love.

The looming shortage is based on pools which were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and are coming to the end of their lifespan – while not enough new facilities are being built to replace them.

While the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the issue, it is not a direct cause for the dire prediction.

However, the A Decade of Decline: The Future of Swimming Pools in England report states that ‘if we continue on the current trend, the number of available pools in England will fall by 40 per cent by the end of the decade – down from the current 4,336 to around 2,468’.

Swim England is now backing calls for the Government to commit to investing £1 billion into public leisure facilities to help refurbish existing pools – as well as building the new ones needed in the future.

Part of this funding should be used so communities can apply for grants to get design and feasibility studies completed – the costs of which can currently be a barrier to pools being built.

The recognised national governing body is also calling on local authorities short of water space to include the provision of new pools in any Levelling Up Funding application they make.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “As we reflect on the amazing achievements of our swimmers, divers, artistic swimmers and para-swimmers this summer in Tokyo, it was heartening to hear so many reflect on the important role their local pool played in their sporting journey.

“Swimming pools are naturally essential to the future of all our aquatic sports if we are to nurture the next Adam Peaty, Tom Daley, Anna Hopkin or Maisie Summers-Newton.

“However, they are so much more than that.

‘Worrying report’

“Pools are hubs of the local community, helping people of all ages to lead healthier, happier lives and saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

“They are also the places where millions learn a skill that could one day save their life – or someone else’s.

“It’s particularly timely that we’re discussing this as today marks National Fitness Day, where we celebrate the vital role of leisure centres and gyms and the positive impact they have on so many lives.

“It reminds us that it’s more important than ever to ensure we have the facilities we need for people to continue to enjoy in the future.

“Without adequate investment into the new pools this country needs, we are forecasting a huge decline in the available water space by the end of the decade, threatening the future of our sports, leaving millions shut out of the activities they love and widening health inequities.

“The time to act is now.”

The report highlights that almost a quarter of local authorities (23 per cent) in England have a deficit of at least one average-sized swimming pool.

Swim England is also asking local authorities to conduct an analysis of its pool stock to understand if it has the right pools in the right place to meet the needs of the community.

The governing body has a dedicated facilities team, which provides expert guidance on new and refurbished pool designs and facility management.

Jane added: “This is a very worrying report which could impact on millions of people across the country.

“We hope the Government and local authorities will take note and work with us to prevent these concerning predictions from becoming a reality.”