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Swimming pools need £1bn lifesaver as lack of funding threatens sport

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A £1billion cash injection is needed from the Government, otherwise inequalities will widen, health and fitness will suffer and budding Adam Peatys may fail to ­fulfil their potential, says Swim England. Chief executive Jane Nickerson warned: “Without adequate investment, millions will be shut out of the activities they love. “That’s why we’re calling for £1billion of investment into new and refurbished ­facilities.”

Swim England estimates almost 2,000 pools could close by the end of the decade unless they are replaced or updated.

Jane added: “Swimming pools are essential to the future of all our aquatic sports if we are to nurture the next Adam Peaty, Tom Daley, Anna Hopkin or Maisie Summers-Newton.

“However, they are so much more than that. Pools are hubs of the local community, helping people of all ages to lead healthier, happier lives and saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year. They are also the places where millions learn a skill that could save their life or someone else’s.”

The Daily Express has highlighted the plight of community sport through the Save Our Olympic Dreams campaign.

The pandemic has wrecked finances for swimming clubs, shutting pools down for months at a time. Lifesaving coach Matt Jagger says they are vital for the safety and health of youngsters across the UK.

The Leeds Phoenix Life Saving Club chairman said: “Swimming is such a great fitness opportunity and ­teaching lifesaving skills is so vital.

“We must ensure we keep organisations running. We were about 25 per cent down on membership when we returned.

“People felt it was just too much to get back into something after such a long break, or things had changed in their lives, which meant they could no longer fit in lifesaving.” Leeds Phoenix was shut for 13 months due to Covid and official support funding ran out before they could apply.

Matt, 35, added: “Thousands of children are on waiting lists to learn to swim, my own included, because there has been so ­little pool time. The backlog is huge.”

● The Daily Express has joined forces with charity Made By Sport which is giving £4million to help clubs in crisis. Made By Sport, backed by lottery operator Allwyn, has helped over 800 community teams.

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Comment by Jane Nickerson

Swimming and aquatic activity has so much to contribute to tackling many of the challenges facing society.

However, we can’t do it without the pools we need for the future.

Our recent Decade of Decline report made for alarming reading as it forecast 2,000 pools could be lost in England by 2030 unless the Government and local authorities move quickly to replace or refurbish ageing facilities.

While the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the issue, it is not a direct cause for the dire prediction.

Pools constructed in the 1960s and 1970s are coming to the end of their lifespan – and sadly there are not enough new facilities being built to replace them.

We hope the Government and local authorities will take note and work with us to prevent these concerning predictions from becoming a reality

Investing in pools makes financial sense. Older pools are often much less economically sustainable, regularly placing a burden on local authorities already short of money.

Additionally, newer pools can be much greener. With leisure centres currently contributing as much as 40 per cent of local authorities’ direct carbon emissions, newer and refurbished pools can play a key role in helping the country meet its environmental targets.

With every £1 invested in community sport delivering £4 back to the economy, investing in sports like swimming provides multiple returns on investment for the Government.

Pools are hubs of the local community, helping people of all ages to lead healthier, happier lives and saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

They are also the places where millions learn a skill that could one day save their life – or someone else’s – and allow people who are unable to exercise on dry land for a variety of reasons get active.

Without adequate investment into the new pools this country needs, the future of our sports are under threat, millions will be shut out of the activities they love and health inequalities will be widened. That’s why we’re calling for £1billion of government investment into new and refurbished facilities.

The time to act is now.

• Jane Nickerson is the Swim England chief executive

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