WORK on a new 50 - metre swimming pool is due to start at Mount Kelly in Tavistock within three weeks — the only Olympic legacy pool of its type to be constructed in the UK since London 2012.

After years of planning, agreement has been reached to build the new eight-lane, 50m pool to train Olympic swimmers and encourage young hopefuls.

It is expected to transform the sport in the West of England and comes at a time when an estimated 51% of children leave primary school unable to swim, with 40% of those children having never been offered the opportunity of learning.

The multi-million pound project has been made possible by Sport England National Lottery funding of more than £700,000.

Mark Semmence, headmaster of Mount kelly, said: ‘This significant investment in the future of the school and for sport regionally would not have been possible without the support of Sport England.’

‘Sport is, of course, very important for the school, especially swimming and this project means that we can attract the very best swimming talent nationally and internationally.

‘Here at Mount Kelly our sporting programmes form an integral part of the overall educational experience, creating a culture in which the level of commitment and dedication required to excel are not considered out of the ordinary, but are qualities to which everyone can aspire.

‘I am particularly delighted that the new pool will enable Mount Kelly to work more closely with the local and regional community, as 60% of the usage of the pool is designated for local schools and swimming clubs.’

Chris Snow, chairman of governors at Mount Kelly, said the £5-million project had come about by ‘a huge amount of hard work and dedication’ and everyone at the foundation was delighted that construction could finally start to take place.

‘We will be creating a major swimming hub and it really does put us on the map. It’s going to make a big difference, not just to us but to swimming nationally,’ said Mr Snow.

‘It’s a one year build project, so the key thing for us is it should be up and running in time for the start of the new academic year in September 2016.’

Olympic and Commonwealth medal winner, TV broadcaster Sharron Davies, an ex student who was trained at Mount Kelly, said she was ‘thrilled’ at the news.

‘This is a big step forward for British swimming. It will give a huge boost to the chances of more young people reaching international level as well as giving those who simply love the sport to come and enjoy themselves while getting fit.

‘It will be an important part of the Olympic legacy.’

Charles Johnston, Sport England’s Director of Property said ‘We are proud to be a partner delivering a sporting legacy for Mount Kelly and supporting their ambition to train the next generation of swimmers. This legacy pool will be of lasting benefit to the students who will be able to reach their full potential as athletes.’

Mount Kelly has run a globally recognised swimming programme for over 30 years. The school’s director of swimming and performance, Robin Brew, himself a former Olympian, said: ‘The addition of a 50m pool on-site is transformational. It will allow us to make an increasingly significant contribution to high performance swimming in the UK.

‘We provide a launch pad for swimmers and offer a progressive and individually-tailored programme allowing each pupil to reach their true potential at the right time for them, whilst also contributing to the collective goal of national, international and Olympic success’.

Over the years Mount Kelly has helped to develop the swimming careers of more than 60 international swimmers, of which 19 competed at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, winning six Olympic and nine Commonwealth medals between them. Olympic Bronze medal and triple Commonwealth Games Gold medal winner Andrew Jameson is also an ex-student.

Mount Kelly students have also excelled in paralympic sport with five swimming medals in Beijing and a further five at the 2012 Games in London.

The pool will be used for long course training for Mount Kelly students, local and regional schools and swimming clubs from around the UK. It will also provide access to ASA accredited swim school programmes for learner swimmers.

The successful programme of visits by primary schools to the existing Mount Kelly pool will be expanded considerably. Almost 350 local children are already enjoying swimming lessons at the school and this number is expected to increase significantly.