Hucknall out to buck the trend of national swimming pool closures

A gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics has voiced his fears that areas like Ashfield could become a ‘swimming pool desert’ as public facilities struggle to retain funding to survive.

Tuesday, 31st August 2021, 8:37 am

But Ashfield District Council says that is not the case for the swimmers in towns like Hucknall where the future for swimming is bright as it puts forwards plans for a brand new second pool at the town’s leisure centre.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast last month, Duncan Scott, who became the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Games in Tokyo, warned of the ‘sad’ loss of pools across the UK.

Swim England also fears that 40 per cent of public pools could shut this decade due to a perfect storm of austerity, Covid and maintenance costs.

Hucknall councillor Lee Waters gives the future for swimming provision in the town the thumbs up

And Jim McNally, Great Britain Diving Federation president, said the Government’s policy of providing sport for all was ‘in tatters’.

Scott, 24, said: “Where I grew up, in Clackmannanshire, we have not actually got a pool, they’ve all recently shut.”

“I think it is quite sad, so hopefully over the coming months something is done about it.”

In Ashfield, figures show there are three public swimming pool sites housing four pools and covering 910sqm, which is below the national average.

Broken down further, in the Sherwood constituency, which contains Hucknall, there are four sites with four pools.

However, one of these is the pool at Edgewood Leisure Centre which the Dispatch understands there are no plans to re-open with the focus instead being on Hucknall Leisure Centre as part of the council’s investment of more than £20 million into the leisure transformation programme for Ashfield.

Plans for the new second pool which will be submitted in the coming weeks, with work set to get underway in early 2022, subject to planning approval.

A council spokesperson said: “The new pool will mean the centre can provide water provision for everyone, while maintaining its current school swimming lessons programme.

"A new changing village and additional parking will also be created as part of the works.”

Coun Rachel Madden, cabinet member for leisure, health and wellbeing, said: “We are committed to providing high quality leisure facilities here in Ashfield so despite what’s happening nationally, we’re proud to be working closely with Sport England to significantly increase our water space.

“Our residents’ health and wellbeing is very important to us so this investment will give people the best chance to participate in a wide range of activities.

"Following Team GB’s recent success in the pool in Tokyo, I’m sure there’s as good a chance as any that the next generation of Olympic swimmers could come from Ashfield.”

The Government said its £100 million National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund had ‘secured the survival and reopening of more than 1,100 swimming pools all over the country’.

But when measured against the size of the population, some areas' facilities are spread more thinly than others.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government has provided an unprecedented £1 billion of public money to ensure the survival of the grassroots, professional sport and leisure sectors.

“This includes the £100 million National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund which secured the survival and reopening of more than 1,100 swimming pools all over the country.”