Swim England has pleaded with the Government to ensure swimming doesn’t become leisure’s ‘forgotten activity’ after it was revealed that almost a third of public pools could remain closed for another six months. Indoor pools across the country are allowed to reopen on Saturday 25 July, 128 days after being forced to shut on 20 March as part of the nationwide effort to help curb the spread of Covid-19. However, less than 20 per cent of local authority-owned facilities will welcome swimmers back into the water on reopening day, and many of those will be at a reduced capacity. New research also shows 30 per cent of public pools may remain closed into 2021 due to the exceptional costs councils face to reopen facilities, coupled with the income lost during the lockdown period.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, has reiterated her plea to the Government to step in and ensure that these facilities are given the financial support they need to survive. “We’re obviously delighted that pools have finally been given the green light to reopen for the first time in more than four months,” she said. “However, we face the real risk of swimming becoming a forgotten activity for so many people if public leisure centres open their gyms first and leave pools closed until next year. Before the lockdown, 4.7 million people a month were swimming regularly. It is such a unique activity in that it offers huge physical and mental health benefits, and helps save the NHS and social care system more than £357 million a year.”
Necessary, affordable facilities
“It would be short-sighted not to provide the necessary financial support to help facilities blighted by the pandemic. The savings made to the NHS alone would quickly more than recover the initial outlay. We share the frustrations of our members and affiliated clubs who still find themselves unable to enjoy the activities they love so dearly and we will keep fighting on their behalf to get them back into their pools as soon as possible.” Jane added that pools are also valuable commodities in local communities.
She said: “A local pool has the power to generate £7.2 million social value in community savings. We appreciate that finances across the country are stretched but it’s a no-brainer that we should invest in public leisure facilities. The #SaveLeisure campaign continues to have our backing and we urge the Government to provide the ring-fenced funding needed to help prevent significant market failure – which we know will hit less affluent areas hardest. Funding is also vital to help prevent facilities increasing the cost of going swimming. Water-based activity is loved by millions – and we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that remains the case and people have the necessary, affordable facilities to enjoy the water.”