Memorandum submitted by a Leisure Manager
at Gateshead Council
Comments from a Leisure Manager within the Leisure
Activities function of Gateshead Council.
Gateshead Council own five public pools and
two school pools. None of these could be described as historic
with the eldest being opened in 1942. The remainder of the pools
were opened around the 1970's.
The Council faces a number of problems in maintaining
the pool buildings due to;
the detriation of the building fabric
due to the aggressive nature of the pool hall environment and
the high levels of use over the years;
the interiors of the building not
being easily adapted to modern standards (access for people with
disabilities, family friendly environments);
the increasing cost of maintaining
the pool buildings as they become older and faults progressively
become worse until action is essential;
the premium cost of repairs due to
the structure and design of the buildings.
It is suggested that these problems would apply
to an historic pool as well as to those aged between 30 and 40
The older pools tend to be rectangular which
limits the fun element of the pools which is often required by
today's leisure market. The rectangular pool does provide a valuable
service in terms of formal swimming ie teaching and club use.
The ideal solution is to provide a pool, which can cater for the
fun element as well as the formal type of swimming.
The Council has found it difficult to allocate
funding to reinvest in swimming pools to maintain the existing
stock or to develop new pools on a replacement basis.
The poor case presented by leisure professionals
and other interested parties in advocating the social benefits
of swimming has led to additional funding being difficult to attract
leading to swimming pool buildings continuing to deteriorate.
The National Lottery has undoubtedly assisted
in expanding and developing the swimming pool stock.
Swimming pools are part of a non-statutory service
of a local authority but can provide essential recreation for
the community. It could be suggested that a swimming pool offers
a more diverse range of activities for a community than, say a
library and can provide health as well as social inclusion benefits.
As a leisure is a discretionary service revenue
funding can become a difficulty in providing a Best Value service.
Funding bodies obviously prioritise spending on the essential
services first and then on the discretionary services.
The local swimming pool tries to cater for the
diverse needs of the community. This can range from aqua natal
classes to over 50 sessions; learn to swim to high performance
competitive swimming, parent and toddler sessions to single sex
swimming. Swimming can provide the community with health and social
benefits as well as being a LIFE SAVER.
The needs of the community and those groups
who require use of the pool tend to compete for pool space/time.
The providers of swimming pools have to be clear as to what they
want to achieve from the swimming pool and develop programmes
to achieve this. As there are competing demands compromises are
reached and no one is entirely satisfied with the outcome.
Many swimming pools have a swimming club attached
to them, which can create a duplication of this type of activity
when considering a cluster of pools. Many pool providers have
developed a strategy for swimming to attempt to address some of
these competing issues. Many local authorities have worked in
partnership with swimming clubs to provide a streamlined club
structure, which recognises the identity a community has with
the local swimming club whilst developing a more effective competitive
It is currently beyond the scope of Gateshead
Council and many other swimming pool providers to cater for the
requirements of a high performance swimmer. The investment in
providing facilities suitable for high performance swimming can
be high but if we want to improve our standing in World swimming
then the cost must be borne.
Swimming is best provided in a modern, well
managed facility, which can cater for the needs of the community
and for the needs of the high performance swimming. These two
groups may not be compatible in every facility but it is clear
that these two groups cannot gain maximum benefit by compromise.
These are the views of a Leisure Manager with
Gateshead Council and do not necessarily represent the views of
28 November 2001