'Grave concern' over future of swimming pools

BBC News reports: There are "grave concerns" about the future of public swimming pools across Wales, according to the sport's governing body.

Swim Wales has warned up to 10% - or 30 pools - may never open again, with rural areas worst hit.

Its research suggests many of Wales' 307 pools have struggled financially while shut during most of the pandemic.

The Welsh government said it would spend £7m this year to help provide more modern and accessible facilities.

Alongside gyms and community centres, pools in Wales reopened on 3 May, but the bills have mounted after they were forced to stay closed for most of the last year.

"It's an astronomical cost running into the hundreds of thousands a year," said Angharad Collins, who heads up leisure services across Torfaen.

Current Covid-19 restrictions mean 30 people can use an indoor swimming pool at one time, but Ms Collins said this made it difficult to cover costs.

But the chief executive of Torfaen Leisure Trusts - which is responsible for five sites across the county, including three pools - said they were vital for helping residents to stay fit and well.

"I had one lady come to us and say she had completely seized up through the pandemic and actually the pool was her oil," she said.

The cost is a concern shared by Simon Morgan, who took over the running of Cambrian Aquatics Centre in Connah's Quay, Flintshire, five years ago with other parents from a swimming group.

"It's half a million quid a year - it's really difficult when you have no income," he said.

Mr Morgan said support from the Welsh government and Sport Wales had been "amazing", but his priority was getting people back in the water.

"We had 1,200 in swimming lessons a week, now we're down to about 600... that really affects our ability to generate our own revenue," he added.

Mr Morgan said the pool was built in 1962 to stop people drowning in the nearby River Dee and had been a mainstay in the town ever since. More...