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Affordable and sustainable facilities key to making swimming more accessible

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has told the Government affordable and sustainable facilities are key to making swimming more accessible across the entire country.

During a Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting on women’s sport, Jane warned that a lack of facilities was making it ‘harder and harder’ for people to go swimming.

Jane was one of six leading figures from the sector giving evidence to the meeting at the House of Commons.

Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, Councillor Liz Green the chair of the Local Government Associations’ Culture, Tourism and Sport board, Ali Oliver, the chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, Linda Fox, the chair of Actonians LFC, and Julie Porter, the chief operating officer of the Lawn Tennis Association, were also speaking at the meeting.

Jane told the committee that 450 public pools had been lost since 2010 and around 1,200 were coming to the end of their lifespan.

She said: “Access to facilities is absolutely key.

“We have 1,200 pools in this country which are more than 40 years old and that is just crazy. 

“Many are not energy efficient at the moment and we need help to get them more sustainable because of that.

“We know that many local authorities are short of at least one swimming pool in their area and that just makes it harder and harder for people to access it.

“Facility hire is really expensive because of how much it costs a pool to run. Our clubs literally run to the wire – they only charge what they need to charge in order to pay the facility costs.

“There are professional coaches but the majority of people in our clubs are volunteers.

Absolutely amazing

“Swimming is something you do from the cradle to the grave but you need access [to facilities].

“Just going for a swim can be expensive and with what is happening with pools and facilities, accessibility is the biggest barrier.

“I have heard people saying they have to choose between eating lunch or going for a swim and we have got to find a way through that and make swimming much more accessible across the entire country.”

Jane hailed the benefits of being active in the water for people of all ages and called for increased visibility of aquatic sports on television.

“People go swimming for their mental health because it’s absolutely amazing for your mental health,” said Jane. “Women in particular find it benefits their mental health and we have that statistically proved.

“Millions of people swim and we work with pool owners and operators on campaigns like #LoveSwimming on the reasons to go swimming and the health benefits of it, the self-confidence benefits of it.

“These are the messages we impart.

“Family swimming. Get your family time back. Take your children swimming and have that quiet time in the pool with them without the distraction of electronic gadgets and things.

“We keep the awareness and profile and campaigning up of all the good reasons why you should swim.

“Once you’re there, you want to do more of it – 80 per cent of girls say they want to swim more.

“Outside of the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games you see very little swimming on TV. It would be great if we had more visibility and more showcasing of it on TV.”