Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Sport England


  Sport England is responsible for leading and co-ordinating the development of sport in England and is the distributor of Lottery funds for sport through the Sport England Lottery Fund. Our work is shaped by the aim to have more people involved in sport, to provide more places to play sport and to win more medals through higher standards of performance in sport.

  Swimming has a large stock of facilities—currently in excess of 3,000 swimming pools in England alone—split between the public (local authorities continue to be the principal providers), private and education sectors. The facility mix is diverse, comprising of conventional pools of different lengths, training pools, leisure pools and diving pools. The most popular facilities, in terms of participation levels, are multi-sports venues with provision for swimming.

  Swimming pools are among the most expensive and complex indoor sports buildings to both build and maintain. In order to ensure that facilities are sustainable, and meet the needs of the community and competitive swimming, it is essential to strike the right balance in the number of pools provided across the Country.

  Sport England provides advice and guidance to local authorities, leisure providers and governing bodies on the modernisation, refurbishment and new build of facilities for all sports, including swimming. It also publishes technical guidance on standards of provision, leads in the production of facility strategies and monitors and funds National Governing Body performance and development plans.

  Up to September 2001, the Sport England Lottery Fund has invested £222 million in the development and refurbishment of capital swimming projects, with £161 million of partnership funding generating total project development costs of £383 million. This making swimming the largest benefactor of Sport England Capital Lottery Funding to date.

  Based on Sport England's extensive research and experience, we would make the following key observations and recommendations concerning swimming facilities in England. There is:

    —  limited need for additional swimming pools in England, based on participation levels;

    —  growing need for the modernisation or rationalisation of existing pools;

    —  significant potential for increasing participation rates at existing local facilities;

    —  a requirement to balance the listing of pools against an identified sports development need;

    —  a case for Sport England to be granted formal consultee status by DTLR for its Demolition Orders for all sports facilities, including swimming pools;

    —  a case for Sport England to be granted formal consultee status by English Heritage to advise it on the listing of sports buildings;

    —  urgent need for extra funding in addition to Lottery monies (from both central and local government) to finance the significant investment required to modernise swimming facilities; and

    —  a need for Government to refocus its efforts in order to achieve its National Curriculum Key Stage 2 swimming commitment for school children.


  Swimming is one of the major sports in the UK which:

    —  has been consistently shown in national surveys to be the most popular active indoor sport in the UK;

    —  is a lifelong participation sport regularly enjoyed by some 40 per cent of adults (GHS figure for participation in the last 12 months) and 50 per cent of young people;

    —  is most popular among women and girls, traditionally an under-represented group within sport;

    —  covers various disciplines, namely; recreational and competitive swimming, disability swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised swimming. Each discipline has its own associated activities and technical facility requirements which cannot always be satisfied in a single pool; and

    —  is a valuable life skill, reducing the likelihood of drowning.


    —  ethnic minority groups continue to be under-represented in their use of swimming pools. Increasing levels of participation among these groups is a key aim of Sport England.


  Over a number of years Sport England has developed management tools, including the Facilities Planning Model (FPM), to assist with determining the strategic and facility needs of sport, including swimming. The FPM provides a consistent and objective assessment of the relationship between the likely demand and the current supply of sports facilities. The model is extremely important for profiling swimming across England and in identifying priority locations. Sport England research suggests that:

    —  there is limited need for additional water space (on top of that currently provided);

    —  the priority is for the modernisation of the current facility stock;

    —  providers must ensure that complementary, not competing, facilities are developed to ensure sustainable and viable provision; and

    —  consideration must be given to improving access to facilities currently under utilised and/or unavailable for community use.


  The leisure building boom experienced in the 1970s and 80s, partly as a result of positive Local Authority funding agreements, now means that there is a stock of facilities in need of major modernisation. Research shows that 60 per cent of pools currently available for community use are between 20 and 40 years old and will soon require modernisation or replacement (source: ASA National Facilities Strategy, From Arm Bands to Gold Medals).

  The estimated costs of this work, for public sector pools alone (not accounting for educational sites), stands at approximately £2 billion. This represents an immense problem for pool owners, operators and external funding agencies at a time when budgets are under increasing pressure.

  The need to address the ageing stock of swimming facilities and develop local strategies to modernise and rationalise provision is therefore clear. Sport England is at the forefront of this work with its Local Authority partners. Sport England also recognises the need to preserve critical sites for swimming and welcomes the Government's desire to amend the Demolition Order, requiring Planning Permission to be obtained prior to the demolition of sports buildings. Sport England believes it can play an important role in considering these applications and seeks statutory consultee status on the Order.

  Building new facilities is not necessarily the best way to achieve "modernisation". There are a number of innovative ways that swimming pools, which fail to meet the current identified standards can be adapted to meet Sport England/ASA technical guidance, as well as the demands of the user.

  Design and technology developments have enabled old 50 metre pools to provide for both the needs of elite swimmers and community users. Developments in moveable bulkheads and moveable floors (which enable the internal pool dimensions to be adjusted), as well as booms (which can divide the water space) mean that for some eight lane 50 metre pools, a full four lane 50 metre lane stretch can be provided for elite training as well as two 25 metre water areas for recreational/community based swimming. Sport England Lottery Fund grant aided the innovative "split boom" at Gurnel Leisure Centre in Ealing, London which enabled exactly this provision to be provided.

  The Best Value requirements placed upon all Local Authorities will also impact on future provision and the decisions made about investing in the current swimming facility stock. Sport England advocate that any decision to modernise or replace facilities should ensure that the potential investment represents efficient and effective use of the budget and meets both the identified needs of the consulted community and sport.

  Alongside the need for modernising the current swimming facility stock, there is also considerable potential for opening up many facilities—particularly those in the educational sector—that traditionally have been unavailable or inaccessible to community users.


  The importance of swimming is recognised within the National Curriculum for Physical Education, which recommends that all children should be able to swim 25 metres by the end of Key Stage 2. There are a number of issues facing schools aiming to achieve this. The costs associated with hiring pools, lifeguards, ensuring the safe transportation of children to and from the site, health and safety and insurance requirements has led to some schools opting out of providing swimming. This has resulted in a large number of young people leaving school that have not been taught the recommended swimming activities and water safety. According to the 1999 Young People Survey:

    —  only 51 per cent of primary schools had at least one member of staff with a specialist PE qualification compared to 100 per cent of secondary schools surveyed;

    —  72 per cent of surveyed primary schools stated that they had access to an indoor pool, yet primary school children are swimming less (43 per cent in 1999 compared to 47 per cent in 1994);

    —  30 per cent of surveyed school children had participated frequently in swimming within school lessons in 1999, a decline of 2 per cent since 1994; and

    —  only 4 per cent of primary schools identified that pools were inadequate for the school's teaching requirements.

  Schools in urban areas that are generally well catered for in terms of proximity to swimming pools are less likely to offer swimming if a pool is not within walking distance. In rural areas this does not appear to be the case with schools already providing transport to and from school.

  Sport England urges the Government to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to achieve Key Stage 2 swimming targets.


  The most pertinent issue for any sport facility, but in particular for swimming pools, is that a clear rationale for listing is presented. Sport England is keen to ensure that any future listing is judged on the basis of a sports development need, and not purely on architectural or aesthetic quality. Swimming pools require significant on-going maintenance and investment. Without a clear rationale based on demand and supply, local authorities are often left with obsolete and expensive facilities which no longer meet the needs of the community.

  The development and potential funding for long-standing and listed buildings is an increasing issue for Local Authorities. For example, in 1992 it was estimated that just under 10 per cent of the UK's swimming provision dated back in excess of 60 years (source: Provision for Swimming, Sports Council 1992). However, Sport England advocates that the following FPM criteria must be met for listing/refurbishment to take place:

    —  Location—is the facility in the most effective location to provide for the local community?;

    —  Fit for purpose—is the facility appropriately designed and managed to meet modern day standards?; and

    —  Value for money—will the proposed capital and revenue (lifecycle costs) investment result in more swimmers at that facility?

  There are a number of historic pools across the county that have met the above criteria and have been successful in refurbishing the facility to meet modern standards—such as the Arches Pool in Greenwich.

  In order to ensure these criteria are taken into account, it is important that Sport England is granted formal consultee status by English Heritage to advise on the listing of sports buildings.


  The amount of funding required to modernise the current facility stock for swimming is beyond the scope of any one of the current sources of finance available for sport.

  The Sport England Lottery Fund has witnessed a decline in available funding for community capital projects (available to everyone) in recent years. This is due to a decrease in the number of lottery ticket sales, the creation of NOF as the sixth good cause and increased pressure on the fund due to the funding of major national sports facilities, such as the Commonwealth Games.

  The Sport England Lottery Fund is unable to meet the needs of swimming in isolation from other funding agencies. Sport England is continually looking to maximise alternative funding opportunities for sport to help redress this situation. Through the guidance of DCMS, Sport England is currently in the process of bidding for a share of Treasury revenues to channel into much needed community provision for sport—including swimming facilities. The wider social inclusion and health value of sport to the community is clear and we look to Government to support this agenda through additional Sport England funding in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Round.


  Sport England is playing a key role in the strategic planning process, working with the ASA, LAs and other leisure providers to identify the needs for swimming provision across the country. As with any project, and notably for swimming, it is crucial that the Location/Fit for Purpose/Value for Money criteria outlined in section six are addressed before listing/modernisation/new build takes place. All modernisation and new projects should be seen in the context of the overall facility and sports development needs in a particular area.

  As the availability of public monies come under greater strain, capital project developments are likely to be increasingly influenced by other sources of funding. Three notable sources that Sport England is continuing to develop links and influence with include:

    —  The New Opportunities Fund and the PE and Sport in Schools Programme;

    —  Private Finance Initiative (school facilities); and

    —  Private Health Market.

  It is important that LAs are encouraged to actively pursue these other funding avenues. It is also imperative that Sport England's strategic planning expertise and knowledge is used to advise other agencies, including Government Departments, on the need for community facilities nationally, regionally and locally. This can best be achieved by joining up Central Government thinking and then using Sport England's strong regional infrastructure arm to joint up local delivery.


  Between May 1997 and September 2001, world-class swimming received revenue and subsistence from the Sport England Lottery Fund totalling £2,874,608.

  This has helped fund:

    —  113 swimmers on World Class Start and Potential Programmes for swimming in England;

    —  35 swimmers on the World Class Performance Programme for British Swimming;

    —  45 swimmers on the World Class Performance Programme in Disability swimming;

    —  Five swimmers on the World Class Potential Interim Programme for British Disability Swimming; and

    —  15 swimmers named on the World Class Potential and Start Programmes for Diving.

  With the exception of disability squads, the overall gap between the best British swimmers and the best in the world has narrowed only marginally since the 1970s. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the British swimming team predicted 10 medals and failed to obtain any. However, it should be remembered that Sydney was Britain's best overall Olympic performance since 1920—many other Lottery funded sports excelled—with Britain winning 11 Gold medals. The Disability swimming team also exceeded their expectations, having predicted around 60 medals and achieved 15 Gold, 24 Silver, 23 Bronze medals.

  Sport England research into the success of the world's leading swimming nations suggests that there are four underlying components for the development of excellence:

    —  A highly structured and systematic approach in relation to the identification and development of talent;

    —  Comprehensive support services for the best swimmers throughout their career;

    —  Participation in appropriate competitions; and

    —  Access to training facilities.

  A particular issue for the ASA in relation to the training of elite athletes is a lack of access to 50 metre pools. In order to improve the current situation, Sport England is:

    —  working to an agreed strategy with the ASA;

    —  developing a network of identified High Performance Centres and support facilities, in association with the ASA, for all disciplines of swimming as part of the English Institute of Sport;

    —  supporting the subsistence and development programmes for elite swimmers through the World Class Start, Potential and Performance programmes (in conjunction with UK Sport); and

    —  agreed in principle to fund a limited number of 50 metre pools across major cities in England, providing for both elite and community use.

27 November 2001

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