Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Lifesavers—The Royal Life Saving Society UK

  A structured approach to the provision of swimming facilities and associated instructional programmes has seen the figures for drownings drop from 3,690 per year in England in 1879 to somewhere in the region of 500 per year in recent times.

  Provision for swimming and water safety is complex, there have been and still are many organisations involved in the provision of facilities, the development of instructional courses and delivery of awards. To secure future development and secure the relevance of historical provision there is a clear need for over-arching locally based strategies. The geographical extent of such strategies will be determined by local governance, but will need driving by detailed research into current resources and matched against the needs of the whole community. The Sport England facilities planning model offers a reasonable starting point.

  There can be no doubt that historic swimming pools do currently, and can continue to provide opportunities for aspects of a local community swimming strategy; life saving for example can make use of a variety of pool shapes and sizes for training and competition purposes. The concern must arise though where historic provision finds it difficult to address modern day requirements. How easy are these pools to access, for people with limited mobility, can they meet the needs of a multi-racial society, do they cater for swimmers with talent and a desire to progress.

  Quite separate, but of fundamental importance, is the cost of maintaining historic buildings, especially if such maintenance draws on limited finance available to local authorities to secure and maintain swimming provision. In a culture of "Best Value", the costs of supporting outdated historic facilities, may not be the best way forward. Perhaps taking a broader view on the value of these buildings, due consideration should be given to funding from other (possibly heritage) sources, leaving local authorities greater freedom to invest in appropriate modernisation and new build.

  In summary, we would suggest that historical facilities do, and can continue, to play a key role in learn to swim, fitness and water safety initiatives. Closures without adequate replacement will undoubtedly influence the health and safety of the local communities these pools serve. We would urge that before there is any decision to close, re-furbish or build from new, there is clear and agreed whole community swimming and water safety strategy.

29 November 2001

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