Memorandum submitted by Northampton Borough
Northampton Borough Council is pleased to be
able to offer this submission to the Culture Media and Sport Committee.
The town of Northampton has a population of
close to 200,000 and the town is one of the fastest growing in
the country. As a local authority, we are responsible for three
swimming pools in the town. These swimming pools serve not only
the town population but also the substantial population in the
villages surrounding Northampton.
Of the three pools, one is a fairly modern leisure
pool with flume and water features but no standard pool with lanes.
It is well used and caters for general leisure use. There is a
mainly shallow 25 metre pool within our Lings Forum centre but
this pool and the centre is over 25 years old and the pool has
reached the end of its expected operating life. The pool also
has no spectator accommodation.
The main swimming pool in Northampton is the
Mounts Baths which was built in 1936. This pool is a non-standard
length (100 feet) and is housed in an historic building whose
structure will not allow the conversion of the swimming pool into
a modern standard 25 metre pool with spectator accommodation.
There is also insufficient land on the site to extend the building
in any way. Although some refurbishment has been undertaken and
an exercise suite has been added, there is still refurbishment
required that cannot be undertaken at present, including bringing
the pool up to modern energy efficiency standards.
Like many local authorities with pre-war swimming
pools, Northampton Borough Council is therefore faced with the
problem of how to develop its facilities when the main swimming
pool is an historic building with structural constraints and on
a site with insufficient land for redevelopment up to modern standards.
Northampton Borough Council has supported Northampton
Swimming Club, one of the largest in the country, by providing
free time in the Mounts Baths for early morning training. The
Council is aware however, that due to the community for swimming,
it is not possible to offer the Club anywhere near sufficient
access to facilities. In addition, while some exercise swimming
in lanes is provided at the Mounts Baths, this is principally
early morning swimming. Unfortunately, given the time available
and the town centre location of the pool, many potential users
do not have sufficient time to swim and then get to work or college.
It is also disappointing that Northampton Borough
Council is unable to host Northampton Swimming Club's Open Meet
(one of the largest and most popular open meets in the swimming
calendar) as there is no swimming pool in the town able to host
such as event. The Council would like to be able to address this
and one possible route is through a partnership that has been
established with University College Northampton.
The University College is keen to develop a
major swimming facility in co-operation with Northampton Borough
Council as well as local schools, local swimming clubs and the
County Council. The outline plans would provide the town and county
with top-level facilities. The link with Northampton Swimming
Club with its professional coaching staff and the input and the
support of the university sports scientists would help develop
excellence in swimming and schools would benefit by having access
to high quality facilities. Those facilities would help encourage
the take-up of the sport, from learning to swim, to swimming for
exercise and competitive swimming.
The plan University College Northampton would
like to implement is to raise sufficient capital to develop a
50 metre swimming pool. As well as use by students, this pool
would be available to schools for teaching swimming, to the community
for exercise (lane) swimming and to Northampton Swimming Club
and other swimming clubs in the region for competitive training
and competitions. The community use would be complementary to
the Borough Council's provision and help the Borough meet the
increasing demand for exercise (lane) swimming. In addition, the
British Director of swimming has highlighted the need for swimmers
to compete in 50 metre pools, so such a development would help
meet national as well as local needs.
The advantage of such a scheme is that it would
be modelled on the system in place in the USA. Much of the development
of excellence in swimming in the USA is undertaken through the
universities with high quality facilities often linked with High
Schools and local clubs. The US approach has the advantage that
as well as high level training, swimmers gain educational qualifications
that will benefit them when they cease competing.
US universities often have substantial endowments
that support the provision of coaches and sports science staff
but unfortunately, the availability of that level endowments is
rare in the UK. However, as noted above, University College Northampton
would provide the sports science staff and facilities, with Northampton
Swimming Club the coaching staff. This scheme would therefore
enable the development of a US and Australian model of linking
swimming and sporting excellence with education in a way that
offers excellent value for money.
This model provides a means of promoting excellence
in swimming in the UK at the same time as supporting exercise
swimming education in the community. Such a development would
require that capital funding was directed towards universities
to develop facilities but only if any proposals were supported
by an agreement between a major swimming club that already employs
a professional coaching staff and a university prepared to share
its facilities and provide sports science support. It would also
be important that proposals were supported by the local authority
and that there was a link to Further Education Colleges to ensure
educational opportunities were available to all, and not just
those qualified for university courses.
The partnership between Northampton Swimming
Club, Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton Borough Council
and University College Northampton (along with its Further Education
Partners in the Northamptonshire Federation) provides an example
of what could be achieved and will offer major value for money.
University College Northampton will be launching
a fund raising campaign early in 2002 and an endorsement from
the Culture, Media and Sport Committee supporting the targeted
investment of capital resources to build high quality swimming
pools at universities and university colleges would greatly assist
3 December 2001