38. English Heritage and the POOL campaign have given
copious evidence to the Committee on the case for maintaining
historic pools, and also the challenges these pools face. There
are currently 79 pools in England listed as of special architectural
or historic interest. Of these, seven are listed at grade II*
and the remaining 72 are listed at grade II.
39. Traditionally pools were built in deprived areas
with few other nearby amenities, and were originally provided
to meet the concerns of public health and hygiene.
Gill Wright of the Manchester Victoria Baths Trust saw the redevelopment
of historic pools as a way of leading the regeneration of deprived
40. Most historic pools are an important form of
Edwardian architecture and represent social history which ought
to be preserved. English Heritage, the Government's lead body
for the historic environment in England, told the Committee that
historic pools are a "prime example of the ordinary working
heritage that most people understand and value ... historic swimming
baths have an important part to play in the creation of distinctive,
civilised and 'liveable' cities".
Gill Wright argued in evidence to the Committee that "it
is not just about the architecture, it is about the social history
which is in that building".
We believe that the architectural importance to the nation cannot
be ignored. In the months before its closure, the Marshall Street
Baths were voted one of the 10 most beautiful public pools in
the country; they are now on the Buildings at Risk register.
41. Pools can be seen as a resource at the heart
of deprived communities to encourage social inclusion, and health,
and promote beneficial alternatives to drugs, alcohol and crime.
42. Pools are an amenity which are used by young,
old, disabled and ethnic minorities alike who would be discouraged
from swimming by travelling further afield to modern facilities.
The Friends of Marshall Street Baths, Soho provided evidence of
three schools being adversely affected by its closure, with some
years having their swimming sessions stopped as the distance to
an alternative pool is too far for younger children, and other
years having their previous year-round swimming reduced to two
terms. When the Haggerston Pool was closed, eight schools took
swimming off their curriculum, as alternative pools, often too
crowded, were considered too far to walk to, and transport too
expensive. One of these schools has resumed sessions at 50 per
cent of its previous regularity, whilst two schools are about
to reintroduce swimming, but at a significant cost in terms of
providing transport. At the Govanhill Pool in Glasgow, only 50
per cent of the children who belonged to the swimming club continue
to take part in its activities. Manchester Victoria Baths has
seen the discontinuation of the schools swimming association,
and the reduction of school galas.
The local swimming club has a waiting list of 50 per cent of the
capacity of the club. Gill Wright reiterated in her evidence to
the committee, that transport is a major issue for the people
in the Ardwick ward of Manchester who used to swim at the Victoria
Baths. People are not visiting the new Commonwealth pool as it
is either too expensive or too difficult to reach.
43. Sport England stated to the Committee in their
memorandum that "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 swimming pools".
Similarly, David Sparkes of the Amateur Swimming Association told
the Committee that they had been unable to connect ethnic minorities
with the elite end of swimming;
and Mr Kelvin Juba of the ASA told the Committee: "probably
less than two per cent of people who are swimming are from ethnic
minority groups around the country ... this is a real problem
that swimming and swimming pool operators are going to have to
address in the future".
Savio D'Souza of the Govanhill Pool, Glasgow suggested that, whilst
some historic pools are able to provide suitable facilities for
ethnic minorities, more modern glass-fronted pools were discouraging
participation, particularly for Muslim women.
44. Campaigns in Manchester, Glasgow and London have
produced a huge amount of support from all sections of the community
for the preservation of the local pools. Most campaigns appear
to have been set up in the absence of constructive dialogue between
local authorities and the community. English Heritage aim to help
re-establish and encourage partnerships to work towards a sustainable
future for historic pools.
45. The main challenge faced by historic pools is
the huge cost of maintenance, repairs and renovation. Evidence
submitted by Save Britain's Heritage detailed the structural problems
that historic pools face. Modern users expect a comfortable internal
environment, with higher water and air temperatures than were
envisaged in the original construction. As a result, energy loss
raises the cost of heating, and condensation problems arise which
affect the health of the structure.
With many pools nearly one hundred years old and in need of repair,
the cost is too great for local authorities who have limited budgets,
and who are now also facing the need to repair more modern pools
built in the 70s and 80s which have greater popular appeal. Evidence
given to the Committee showed that significant funding is needed
to bring historic pools back into use. Haggerston Baths, Hackney
has estimated that £3.5 million is needed, Marshall Street
Baths in Soho need £7.1 million, and Victoria Baths in Manchester
need £10.93 million.
All three pools have developed business plans to transform the
pools into 'healthy living centres'.
46. English Heritage told the Committee that it only
has a limited allocation of grant funding from central government
to assist listed buildings. In the last financial year, English
Heritage had only £3.6 million, from grants in aid from central
government, to allocate to 35,000 listed buildings in London,
and for the rest of England £8.6 million was available for
over 500,000 listed buildings.
Paul Velluet of English Heritage described this as "a very,
very thin spread".
Rather than a funding provider, English Heritage sees its role
as co-operating with local authorities and communities in encouraging
the effective use of pools, working towards grant assistance to
bring pools back into use, and channelling their limited grants
into projects to help lever in other support from local authorities
and the private sector.
47. English Heritage believes that the way for historic
pools to survive is through partnership agreements between local
authorities and private concerns, and cites Richmond Upon Thames,
Saltdean Lido near Brighton and the Jubilee Pool in Penzance as
English Heritage is also currently undertaking a pilot study in
the North West region of the interconnection between sporting
facilities and heritage buildings, the results of which may be
useful for the rest of the country.
48. Despite the appeal of public-private partnerships
as a solution to the problem of funding historic pools, the POOL
campaign gave evidence to the Committee that there are difficulties
in obtaining private sector support for non-leisure pools in deprived
areas, as these are not seen as lucrative for business.
Even when such interest is secured for a historic pool, problems
occur. Barbara Corr, representing the Friends of Marshall Street
Baths, Soho, told the Committee that a private sector operator
had expressed interest in investing in the pool and had offered
to invest £5 million if the local authority agreed to invest
£2 million. As the local authority had declined this offer,
the deal had fallen through and private sector funding had been
withdrawn. Gill Wright,
representing Manchester Victoria Baths Trust, told the Committee
that, once sources of capital funding had been identified, the
difficulty came in balancing the revenue costs with the project
expenditure. The local authority were not willing to provide revenue
support as they had in the past, and this proved a barrier to
The Committee also received evidence from Camberwell Leisure Centre
outlining its partnership approach to attracting funding.
49. An added burden on historic pools is VAT on repairs
to listed buildings. Although zero rating applies to alteration
works, VAT on repairs and maintenance is standard rated. Victoria
Baths in Manchester has estimated that the necessary repair costs
of £9.1 million will attract a VAT bill of £1.83million.
Determination of whether repairs should be treated in the same
way as alteration works rests with the European Commission. The
Commission has said that it will look carefully at the issue of
VAT treatment of heritage buildings when the VAT directive is
reviewed in 2003.
There is however likely to be a long shopping list of VAT reforms
for the Commission to consider. It may be some time before listed
building obtain the relief, which listed churches recently received,
from VAT on repairs.
50. There are also concerns that historic facilities
are old-fashioned and some require significant alteration to meet
disability and health and safety requirements. The Local Government
Association expressed a concern that historic pools "remain
inaccessible in design to the whole community. Indeed the final
stages of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 are most likely
to add to local councils' financial pressures in this area."
Bringing facilities into line with modern standards is a challenge
for both historic pools and pools built more recently in the 1970s
and 1980s. The evidence from the Institute of Sport and Recreation
Management commented on the robust and superior building standards
of historic buildings, and saw no reason why pools should not
be able to meet satisfactory pool water and hygiene standards.
Evidence has been submitted by the historic pools that they were
used by swimmers with disabilities on account of having steps,
rather than ladders, into the water. These swimmers now face difficulties
in finding alternative suitable facilities.
51. Historic pools represent a valuable part of
the UK's heritage. The priority afforded to them needs to be assessed
sensitively and carefully within the context of total provision
across the relevant community (including transport issues, potential
usage, importance in terms of social history and architectural
quality). We cannot ignore the realities of budgetary constraints,
but imaginative and creative funding solutions should be sought
in consultation with the local community. Currently, English Heritage
cannot afford to help significantly with the funding of the refurbishment
of historic pools. The Committee believes there is a case for
more resources from the Heritage Lottery Fund being made available
to historic pools for this purpose. Historic pools should also
be looked at from the point of view of social regeneration or
preventing social degeneration. The Government should reconsider
how such facilities can be developed to support deprived areas.
It should also take steps to seek to relieve them of the burden
of VAT on repair and renovation.
Elite and club sporting provision
52. The Committee has received many memoranda from
swimming clubs and associations stating that the provision of
facilities for training and hosting competitions are inadequate.
There are two main issues, the lack of water space for elite training
in local authority pools, and the lack of 50 metre pools for long
course training and for international standard competitions. As
Noel Winter of the ASA explained, elite swimmers need to train
twice a day; and whilst they can use 25 metre pools as supplementary
training, they also need to train once a day in a 50 metre pool
if they are to compete internationally in long course competitions.
This is an issue which has support from Bill Sweetenham, Britain's
new National Performance Director for swimming.
The current minimum for an international standard competition
swimming facility is a 50 metre pool with 10 lanes, with adequate
accommodation for spectators and competitors and car parking.
Sheffield currently has the only pool capable of holding an international
competition, but even this does not meet full international standards
as it does not have a 50 metre warm up and swim down pool.
By the end of 2002 England will have 19 50 metre pools (in various
state of repair), about the same number of pools in Berlin or
53. The lack of 50 metre pools in England means that
there is not one pool where the ASA can take the national team
to a training camp over a prolonged period of time.
Great Britain won seven medals (including two golds) at this year's
world championships in Fukuoka, but returned from the 2000 Sydney
Olympics with no swimming medals at all. Whilst there has been
increased Lottery funding under the World Class Programme for
elite swimming over recent years, it was, as we have pointed out,
subsequently reduced as a result of the Sydney failure to produce
medals, and swimming is now classed as a priority two sport.
Sport England ought surely to take into account the success of
British Swimmers at the European Championships in December 2001,
both in winning medals and in breaking Commonwealth and British
records. Whilst the
funding remains in place to produce elite swimming programmes,
the elite facilities also need to be provided if swimmers are
to compete on an equal basis with other countries. As the ISRM
wrote to the Committee: "children need role models, heroes
that can inspire them to do great things with their own lives".
Enabling elite swimmers to win gold medals encourages the medal
winners of the future to swim.
54. Whilst the problems of elite swimming may be
redressed by Sport England's commitment in principle to fund a
limited number of 50 metre pools, it remains important for the
lower end of competition swimming to be supported in order to
provide elite champions of the future. Duncan Goodhew told us:
"Winning gold medals is about probability. You have to get
as many people taking part as possible".
Whilst the ASA stated that most general requirements can be met
by the provision of 25 metre pools, it is the access to such facilities
that is proving problematical for clubs.
Many children are forced to train early in the morning, or late
at night when they should be in bed.
Where there is a lack of 25 metre pools in an area, parents are
forced to transport children to suitable pools for training at
a significant cost which cannot always be met by less well-off
55. Swimming clubs have submitted evidence of the
increasing fees being charged by local authorities, and of water
space being prioritised for the more lucrative customers who swim
for exercise. Anita Lonsbrough told the Committee of an example
where existing 25 metre facilities are being replaced by a leisure
pool. Whilst leisure
pools are useful in introducing children to swimming, and providing
an interest in the sport, they are not suitable for competitive
56. Provision is different in the USA, where university
pools are linked to sports colleges and communities, and this
model is being adopted by the Australian Institute of Sport. In
this country, High Performance Centres are being developed for
sport as part of the English Institute of Sport, and also Specialist
Sports Colleges are being developed under the Government's plan
for Sport. One such
High Performance Centre will be the 50 metre pool being built
at Loughborough University.
This could be seen as a flagship for community involvement in
a sporting centre of excellence. Provided pools are made available
for the whole county in which they are situated, the ASA are broadly
supportive of this move to involve communities with university
in Hatfield there is currently a debate over a proposed new pool.
Hertfordshire University and the local club are pressing for an
upgrade of existing plans so as to provide a 50 metre pool.
The local authority and Sport England are resisting requests to
provide the extra £2 million needed to expand the proposed
25 metre pool into a 50 metre facility.
It seems clear that if universities are willing to share their
elite-standard facilities with the wider community, they will
need the funding to create better pools.
57. Whilst existing 25 metre pools need to be
modernised, there appears to be a case for investing in 50 metre
pools which can be used by a whole county for swimming. With efficient
programming and the use of moveable floors and bulkheads, pools
can be altered during a day to serve the whole community. New
50 metre pools and refurbishment of existing pools need investment,
but whilst the structure of the sport remains based on swimming
clubs and associations feeding through future medalists they need
to have water space and the time to train. We cannot be surprised
when swimming prowess becomes scarce and stars like Sharron Davies,
Duncan Goodhew and Anita Lonsbrough emerge despite the system
rather than because of it. Anita Lonsbrough told the Committee
"Sport is not as we knew it ... It is now a business; and
we have not invested enough in our business."
30 Ofsted Report, Swimming in Key Stage 2, November
Ev 44 Back
Q 84 Back
Ev 52 Back
Q 87 Back
Ev 48 Back
Ev 52 Back
Ev 70 Back
Ev 72 Back
Q 80 Back
Ev 72 Back
Q 74 Back
Figure provided by the Amateur Swimming Association, Q 70 Back
Ev 47 Back
Ev 47, 48 Back
Q 47 Back
Q 57 Back
Ev 72 Back
Figures provided by the LGA Back
Q 65 Back
Q 57 Back
Q 66 Back
Q 65 Back
Q 48 Back
Ev 2 Back
Ev 50 Back
Q 30 Back
Ev 1 Back
Q 13 Back
Ev 33 Back
Ev 118 Back
Q 12 Back
Ev 47 Back
Q 41 Back
Q 47 Back
QQ 24, 25 Back
Not printed Back
Ev 9, Q 7 Back
The Healthy Living Centre initiative was set up in January 1999
by the New Opportunities Fund, with the aim of opening centres
across the UK which will promote good health in its broadest sense,
helping people of all ages improve their wellbeing and get the
most out of life. Back
English Heritage are limited, outside London, to help only Grade
I and II* listed buildings, and there are few listed swimming
pools at such a high grading. In Greater London, English Heritage
inherited the powers of the GLC and so are able to have greater
involvement with Grade II listed buildings. See Q 5 Back
Q 8 Back
QQ 2, 8 Back
Ev 2 Back
Q 31 Back
Ev 118 Back
Q 7 Back
Ev 118 Back
Ev 77 Back
HC Deb, vol. 367, 1 May 2001, col. 213WH Back
Ev 72 Back
Ev 51 Back
Ev 9, 15, QQ 12, 13, 29 Back
Q 48 Back
Ev 74 Back
Ev 79 Back
Ev 45 Back
Q 46 Back
QQ 42, 53, 67 Back
Information provided by the Amateur Swimming Association Back
Ev 54 Back
Q 80 Back
Ev 45 Back
Q 80 Back
Ev 62 Back
Ev 50, A Sporting Future for All: The Government's plan for
sport, March 2001, p 13 Back
QQ 46, 48, 49, 50, 89, 91 Back
QQ 48, 49, 50 Back
Hatfield University is not included in the Amateur Swimming Association's
National Facilities Strategy. Back
Ev 128 Back
Q 98 Back