swimmers, councillors and leisure centres have welcomed the extra support from government towards leisure centres.
The Chancellor announced £63m fund in his spring budget to help make them more energy efficient – which should reduce bills in the long term.
Public pool operators such as Fusion Lifestyle who run Meadowlands and Parklands in Tavistock and Okehampton have been campaigning for extra help with energy bills to keep them open.
However, most of the outdoor pools and lidos in Devon will not get any support, but still have huge heating and energy costs. In West Devon, that includes Chagford and Moretonhampstead pools. This puts many of these smaller community run, rural pools at even greater risk of being lost.
The industry body Community Leisure UK (CLUK) has been lobbying the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt through MPs and councillors for extra support. Leisure centres don’t qualify for additional government support available from April onwards even though they are intensive energy users.
As a result they face the threat of closure. Users say this would have a devastating impact on local communities because swimming is good for fitness and mental health and supports athletes and clubs.
James Lake, Tavistock Swimming Club head coach, spoke for members: ‘We welcome the news in the budget that leisure centres will be receiving support towards their running costs. As a local grassroots community and charity-based club, this support will be essential in keeping these local clubs going which is so important to the future generations of swimmers and athletes beginning their sporting journeys.’
Cllr Adam Bridgewater, West Devon Borough Council member, campaigned for Meadowlands to remain open after the pandemic lockdown: said: ‘This is great news and will help support the pools in the long term. It wasn’t just the swimming club that came to me to keep the pool open, it was several members of the public who do aquarobics or swim or use the gym in order to keep fit both in body and in mind.
‘We must keep the leisure centres open, it’s a form of escapism for many people. Older people meet up with friends there and our borough’s children learn vital life skills like learning to swim.’
Hannah Worth, director, Active Devon and triathlete, said: ‘We welcome the budget support for publicly-owned leisure centres with swimming pools, but disappointed to hear that this will not include community run pools – those not under a local authority contract and instead run by a local charity and often by volunteers. The leisure facilities are a real cornerstone of enabling local communities to access inclusive physical activity opportunities.’