Memorandum submitted by Mr Roy MacAlister
The submissions and evidence in the enclosures
relating to swimming facilities available in communities are my
own independent views and may not represent those of the organisations
of which I am a member. They are based on my experience as a Chairman
and President of District Sports committees, as a competitor here
and overseas, and as a swimming administrator. I have no professional
interest in the subject.
Submission as invited in Notice No. 5
dated 9 November 2001 relating to the item, Swimming facilities
available in communities.
This submission consists of Page 1 showing the
submitted conclusions followed by the detailed evidence and premises
upon which the conclusions are based.
Objectives. The public want suitable
swimming facilities located in reasonable proximity to their homes
with safe and convenient access. The facilities should provide
for the teaching of swimming to all ages, educational use, recreational
and family use, lane swimming, aquafit and suitability for low
level competition by schools, local clubs and similar organisations.
Cost to users is a factor but safety, convenience and quality
are more important to the majority of the public.
Provision. Local Authorities should remain
the principle providers of community facilities in the United
Kingdom. Outside assistance with capital expenditure is desirable
indeed essential for most Local Authorities. Government departments
in relation to Health and Safety, Education, Health, Environment
have responsibilities in respect of these facilities and their
management. Financial assistance direct from the Treasury or the
Lotteries Commission must depend upon acceptance of conditions
relating to the government departments' responsibilities.
Management. Good management is essential,
clearly in the fields of health and safety but also in the programming
of play and fun activities. Technical knowledge and control is
and has usually been of a high standard within the limits of the
equipment, but the quality of the organisation and of the supervision
of the staff has been variable. Frequently neither the local authority
nor their professional staff have the knowledge or experience
to supervise facilities staff effectively. Central Government
should establish a system of independent inspections of the facilities.
Financial assistance would depend upon acceptance of such inspections
and of implementation of any recommendations. Initially the emphasis
would be on help and guidance.
The City of Sunderland conducted extensive research
this year, 2001, before planning new sports facilities. This included
consulting citizens by poll. This showed, inter alia an
overwhelming percentage of participation in swimming over all
other sports. This is a mainly urban area but supported the results
of an earlier national inquiry.
In respect of rural communities, without specific
research, experience of existing facilities suggests a similar
public attitude. Parents are very willing to contribute towards
travel costs from village primary schools for swimming lessons
and protest if they are withdrawn. Where facilities do exist the
attendance figures suggest that participation may be even greater
than in urban areas.
It is essential that there is provision for
all the listed activities. Ancillary features such as fitness
rooms, cre"ches, saunas and café enhance popularity
and improve viability. The water should include an area of Width
eight metres, Length 25 metres and Depth 0.9/1.2 metres to cater
for teaching, lane swimming and competition.
Assessment of needs related to population. Experience
of existing facilities indicates that one such multi-purpose is
needed per 25,000 in fairly well populated rural areas, but in
urban areas with alternative traditional pools which provide teaching,
competition and lane swimming one per 50,000 may be adequate at
present. There are small towns with a population of 5,000/10,000
where the full range including ancillary facilities are provided
which are fully used.
State provision has in the main been limited
to Eastern Europe. My comment is limited to visits for competition
and the observations of their sports scientists. Comment was generally
unfavourable, but lack of resources was main problem. Delays,
lethargy, confused directions and political influence may affect
central provision everywhere. Private provision is widespread
throughout Western Europe, and the rest of the world, mainly in
fitness clubs and hotels. The quality of many fitness clubs is
high. They can be provided and maintained without any burden on
the public purse. However to be commercially viable they must
target specific and exclusive groups, hotel guests and adults
keen on fitness. Public financial support would be needed if private
bodies had to cater for the needs of the general public.
A major problem for local authorities is the
constraints imposed by finance. Suitable location is essential
and available sites particularly in or near to urban areas pose
problems. Without outside support the facilities may never be
provided or built in the wrong place. Safe pedestrian access as
well as by public or private transport is essential to users and
may be important in recruiting staff.
There are ample qualified and experienced professionals
and firms now to design these facilities.
The extent to which the needs of the public are achieved is dependent
on management. Thus must include organisation and programming
of the activities, direction of the staff and supervision of their
work, inspection of equipment and apparatus and to ensure that
staff comply with instructions. This is onerous and a high standard
of training and dedication is necessary. These exist. Universities
are producing increasing numbers of graduates with Sports degrees.
Their career structure includes management of leisure facilities
and the quality of management will reflect the status accorded
to it. From the point of view of the local authority such training
will ensure sensitivity to any local needs in programming eg for
exclusive ladies sessions or provision for the handicapped.
The Education department of the Amateur Swimming
Association is the main provider of training and qualifications
for staff employed on specialist duties. The ASA has sometimes
been consulted about the programming.
Formal evidence of the relative success of management
at different centres now operating is not available. The public
knows. Good management is revealed by increasing revenues and
stability of staff.
26 November 2001