Yorkshire could become a ‘pool wasteland’ as public facilities struggle to retain funds to survive

The thermal baths in Ripon, the hometown of Olympic diver Jack Laughter, have now been put up for sale and a new swimming pool is being built nearby.

This follows significant achievements for the region’s swimmers and divers at the Tokyo Olympics, with Leeds’ Matty Lee winning the gold in synchronized diving alongside partner Tom Daley.

Jonny Brownlee and Jessica Learmonth also won the gold medal in the mixed triathlon relay, Jonny having swam at the Aireborough Leisure Center in Guiseley in his youth. Jessica was a county swimmer whose father was a Leeds City program coach.

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But closures in the region along with a lack of investment in new facilities mean the difference between Yorkshire’s supply and that of the South East is equivalent to 39 Olympic swimming pools according to research by JPIMedia, owners of the Yorkshire Post.

There are 118 public swimming pools in Yorkshire and the Humber, the equivalent of 867 square meters per 100,000 people in the region. In comparison, the Southeast has 1,048 square meters per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Southwest has 1,068.

And a Leeds MP has warned that improving swimming facilities must be at the heart of the government’s upgrading program.

Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, told the Yorkshire Post: ‘There is a long term problem around most of the swimming pools run by boards. It is not a legal obligation. Government funding has declined for local authorities. One of the things that is disappearing is funding for swimming pools.

“We have a swimming pool in Otley which is half funded by the council, half by the school. The council said it could no longer fund it. If it closes, the next closest pool is Ilkley.

“There are public funds and lottery funds, and what we find in many areas outside of elite sport, a disproportionate amount goes south.

“Part of the government’s upgrading program should be better regulation around sports and recreation.

“What we need to see is a settlement for the municipal areas of West Yorkshire and money to swim to go to the mayor.

“Bramley Baths in Leeds is a success story, the community came together and it is now run as a non-profit business. “

Mr Sobel also added that the necessary investments were all the more relevant given Yorkshire’s strong performance at the Olympics, where eight athletes won bronze, silver or gold medals.

Earlier this month, Olympic gold medalist Duncan Scott warned of the “sad” loss of swimming pools across the UK.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Scottish swimmer said: “Where I grew up in Clackmannanshire we don’t actually have a pool, they all recently closed.”

The 24-year-old, who this summer became the first British athlete to win four medals in a single Games, said learning to swim was “so important for children, first of all, to feel safe and secure. confidence in water, but it is also a fairly important social skill ”.

He added: “I think it’s pretty sad so hopefully in the next few months something will be done about it.”

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Department said, “We are prioritizing the country’s fitness and health as we recover better from the pandemic, and swimming is a fantastic sport for everyone. all ages.

“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 £ 100million National Recreation Center Recovery Fund which has ensured the survival and reopening of more than 1,100 swimming pools across the country.

On top of that, Sport England, the government funding agency, has provided over £ 8.5million to swimming and diving projects, and over £ 16million to Swim England since 2017 . “We give our support and are sure the GB team is amazing the success at Tokyo 2020 will inspire many people to swim. “

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