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


Memorandum submitted by Nottinghamshire Amateur Swimming Association

  As a county we, like many other areas, have a problem with ageing pool facilities. Many pools were built at the beginning of the 20th century and fulfilled the requirements at that time, taking swimming from an activity in local rivers to a more controlled environment. Refurbishment of these facilities is, in most instances, not cost effective, due to the need for improved, environmentally friendly use of energy, changes in health and safety requirements, and restrictions imposed by the building designs.

  In addition, Nottinghamshire as a pioneering local authority in the provision of dual use recreation facilities, is experiencing a problem which will almost certainly develop in other areas. When the first dual use facilities were built in the 1960s with joint funding agreements between education and leisure provision, the swimming facility, which in most cases comprised a rectangular pool of 25 yards or less, served the requirements of both education and the community. These facilities are now needing major refurbishment work, but the expectations of the two funding partners have changed. Whilst education still requires the rectangular pool which facilitates teaching and coaching in a formal situation, the community now expects more "glamorous surroundings". The funding arrangements are therefore no longer appropriate and it is likely that swimming facilities on dual use sites could close. This is an issue which could be addressed through the new monies available for sports facilities on school sites.

  Swimming is an activity which fulfils a dual role. It is a life skill which is essential to all people. It is the one sport which will touch almost every household in the country, either through children learning to swim, people of all ages going on holiday with access to beaches and pools, or adults engaging in fitness activities. The importance of swimming in our lifestyle is underlined by surveys which have shown that the two skills which patients want their children to learn outside of the formal education structure are to learn to swim and to learn to drive.

  Swimming is also a competitive sport which provides a programmed activity for a large number of young people with a competitive structure from the local level through County District and National levels to Olympic representation.

  It is this dual role which often clouds issues with regard to the provision of facilities. Whilst the revenue costs for swimming pools is often higher than for the facilities for other sports, it is still essential that all aspects of the swimming have access to appropriate pool space.

  The Amateur Swimming Association's facilities plan looks to encourage the provision of eight-lane 25 metre competition facilities for county and regional championships and 50 metre training pools for developing excellence in our international performance swimmers.

  As a County we do not have a 25 metre eight-lane competition pool, yet we have a Unitary Authority planning to close two old facilities and replace them with a 12k expenditure on a leisure pool.

  There are now examples in the UK of pools which have been designed to deliver low running costs and variable programming. It is important that the DCMS through Sport England endeavour to influence the direction of monies available for pool replacements so that all aspects of the sport can be delivered. Children who have not learnt to swim properly will not visit leisure pools.

  It is important that the expertise and goodwill of the army of volunteer teachers, coaches and administrators in swimming is not lost. Clubs need access to appropriate facilities at reasonable prices in order to continue to provide the next generations with the life skill they need and the opportunity to develop their talents to the extent of their ability.

  We trust that these views will be considered by the Committee in support of evidence from the Amateur Swimming Association.

26 November 2001

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