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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
UK pools 'need major investment'
By Luke Walton
BBC News

Children in swimming pool
There are concerns over children's basic swimming skills
On the face of it, this should be a golden era for Britain's public swimming pools.

The government is constantly urging us to do more exercise.

And ministers have pledged to improve sporting facilities in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012.

But despite that, hundreds of local pools are increasingly shabby and some are threatened with closure.

The Amateur Swimming Association says 2bn of extra investment is needed to keep public pools afloat.

One of the pools under threat is in the town of Guisborough, near Teesside.

It was built in 1968 as a temporary structure.

We can do a lot more. But I think to date we are tackling the massive backlog we inherited both in terms of activity levels for young people and for facilities
Richard Caborn, Sports Minister

Rob Vincent Jones, chairman of the local swimming club, said the only surprise was that it lasted this long.

He said: "The plumbing and mechanics of this pool should be in a museum.

"All it needs is one more mechanical breakdown of the filter system, or the boiler, and I think Redcar and Cleveland council will probably say enough is enough."

But despite a 5,000 signature petition calling for a new pool in the town, the council says it can't afford to replace the facility.

And its efforts to attract outside-funding have been unsuccessful.

Bleak future

Local mother-of-two Joanna Winspear says building a better pool should be a priority.

She said: "They say we have got to keep them fit ... Well, provide things so we can. Most parents would be willing to bring their children to the pool if it was decent."

According to the Local Government Association, which represents more than four hundred local authorities, the funding situation for pools could be about to get worse.

It told the BBC that pools were being hit by "triple whammy" of rising energy bills, increasing competition from private clubs and falling investment from the lottery.

There is such a little amount of the actual school day given over to physical activity of any sort, but swimming has taken a particularly hard hit in my opinion
Carolyn Warner, Right to Swim

Sports minister Richard Caborn defended the government's record on BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

He said the government had invested 285m in swimming pools in the last five years.

Mr Caborn added: "We can do a lot more. But I think to date we are tackling the massive backlog we inherited both in terms of activity levels for young people and for facilities."

But campaigners remain convinced that teaching of swimming - and access to pools - needs to be improved.

Carolyn Warner, of the pressure group Right to Swim, is worried by a recent survey suggesting a third of ten and eleven year olds do not have basic swimming survival skills, such as floating.

She said: "There is such a little amount of the actual school day given over to physical activity of any sort, but swimming has taken a particularly hard hit in my opinion."




SEE ALSO
New move on NI Olympic-sized pool
10 Oct 06 |  Northern Ireland
Teenager sentenced for pool rape
04 Oct 06 |  Merseyside

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