Swim England

A nation swimming

National Plan for Sport must have facility investment at its heart

Any National Plan for Sport must have investment in facilities at its very heart.

That was the message delivered by Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson to the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into a possible National Plan for Sport.

Jane was part of a panel of experts from across the sporting sector, giving evidence on the merits of a new ‘national plan for sport’, as well as other important issues such as safeguarding in sport, governance, inclusion and the promotion of grassroots participation.

In her evidence, Jane stressed the importance of pools, not just for the future of swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming clubs that rely on them for training and competitions, but also for the health and wellbeing of the nation and in ensuring children are learning those potentially life-saving skills.

Jane highlighted the fact that even before the coronavirus pandemic, Swim England was forecasting a sharp fall in available pools by the end of the decade and this situation has only been made worse by the impact of Covid.

Absolutely crucial

One in five local authorities are short of at least one 25 metre swimming pool and participation levels for both adults and children as well as children’s swimming attainment levels are all lower on average in these areas.

More economically deprived areas and more ethnically diverse communities were more likely to live in areas that were short of facilities.

To address this, and to tackle these inequalities, Jane argued that delivering the strategic investment needed into our nation’s pools was absolutely crucial to any future national plan for sport.

Even without a ‘national plan’, this investment in facilities needs to be a priority if the Government is serious about its stated ambitions to promote healthier, more active lifestyles, and to reduce pressures on the NHS.

Swim England’s facilities team works closely with local authorities to support the development of new pools and is working with a number to try and access funding through the Government’s ‘Levelling Up Fund’.

Advances in technology means that new pools can be much more sustainable to build and operate, both economically and environmentally.