Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from Ms Anita Lonsbrough MBE

  Swimming is not just a sport on its own, but it plays a major role in many others including triathlon, modern pentathlon, rowing and sailing to name just a few. It is also a great way to keep fit for the young and old. But perhaps its most important role is that it saves lives.

  Water space is always at a premium but do local authorities and others who run swimming pools look after them? Far too often we hear of pools being closed down because it will cost too much money to repair yet had the repairs been kept up to date there would have been no need for closure.

  Old pools can be renovated especially 50 metre ones. Booms give new life to pools. They become a facility capable of being divided up and used for a variety of activities. The Ealing pool has recently had the addition of a boom. The pool can now cater for training, teaching lessons and the community all at the same time.

  The closure of a 33 metre or 331/3 yard pool and the building of a six lane 25 metre venue mean that vital water space has been lost. I live in Wolverhampton where they are proposing to pull down two of the cities four pools. The two due for closure—25 and 331/3 yards pools, are in different parts of the city and the proposal is to replace them with a leisure pool and possibly a 25 metre tank. The loss of water space will be greater.

  Unfortunately, the weather in Britain is not conducive to open-air swimming all the year round. The open-air pools stand empty in the winter so why not put bubbles over? Also when open-air pools are to be closed why not look into the placing of permanent bubbles or a basic building for extra swimming facilities.

  Travelling the world as I do covering swimming events I have seen many pools converted from out-door pools into indoor facilities at a fraction of the cost of building new pools.

  The closure of pools is not just in the public sector but also in education and the private sector. A private sector 331/3 yard pool in London where the Otters Swimming club, one of the oldest in the country, trains is to be covered over.

  The sport of swimming is divided into four disciplines—swimming, dividing, water polo and synchronised swimming all making their own individual requirements on water space. Water space for clubs to teach and coach is both very expensive and scarce.

  Beckenham, a club which hire lanes at Crystal Palace have now been told that they are, to pay VAT on the hire fees. They are afraid that this may put too high a burden on the club. Clubs have to raise the money to hire facilities and Beckenham are afraid that they may not be able to find this extra money.

  For training swimmers are normally divided in lanes as follows—six per lane in a 25 metre pool, nine in a 331/3 metre or yard pool and 12 in a 50 metre pool. If a six lane 331/3 pool which caters for 54 swimmers, is closed and replaced by a six lane 25 metre pool giving water space for 36 swimmers immediately 18 swimmers loose training space.

  Swimmers find themselves having to train early in the morning and often later at night which is far from ideal. In between training the average swimmer also has to go to school and do home work.

  The country without doubt lacks sufficient 50 metre pools for the elite competitor to train in and many swimmers find they are having to leave their own environment to find ideal training conditions.

28 November 2001

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