North East swimming pool closures in the spotlight after 62 permanently shut down since 2010

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A new report by Swim England suggests 62 swimming pools have closed down in the North East since 2010, with more than 1,000 closing nationally during the same period.

The national governing body's second report on the value of swimming, claims the activity generates £2.4billion of social value each year, suggesting swimmers contribute £95million to the North East region alone.

As part of the group's 'Don't put a cap on swimming' campaign, the report highlighted how 168 pools have closed at some point during the last 13 years in the region, with only 106 being renovated or built to replace them.

It also found that deprived areas in the country are three times more likely to lose their swimming pools.

Cllr Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, which serves some of the most deprived areas in the country, said he blames austerity claiming his council has £197million less to spend each year.

He said: "Our leisure services cost us about £4.5m a year to subsidise and with the growing demands of adult social care, the centres were just not sustainable.

"Closing leisure centres is not something that the council wants to do. I’m not going to say that this is a good thing. It’s catastrophic for the people of Gateshead. It’s an absolute disgrace, but the amount of resources that we receive from the government to fund these absolutely vital services has been completely decimated."

Gateshead Leisure Centre swimming pool and the pool in Birtley both closed in July 2023.

Gateshead Leisure Centre closed down in July. Credit: Google

Steve Wright used to swim at the Gateshead pool and he said it helped him recover from a stroke, which ties in with another finding from the report, which suggested that regular swimmers save the NHS £357million a year.

Mr Wright said: "It took a lot for me to go to a swimming pool anyway because I’m a big old lump. I’m still a big lump, but once I got in I absolutely loved it and it’s just taken all that away."

Community Asset Groups have applied for charity status to secure funding and grants to reopen the pools.

One community group has successfully applied this model to Newcastle's Elswick Community Pool and Gym.

The pool closed down in 2015 as the council could not afford to keep it going. The community group secured charity status and reopened the pool in 2019.

Although it has been a complex project, the pool managers said being flexible in what it can offer to the community, is what keeps it afloat.

Pool manager, Phil Jameson, said: "Rather than having something that might last four hours, we try and mix it up, so we might have a lanes swimming session, we might have public swimming, school swimming, swimming lessons, and also some of the community clubs that want to use us, we hire them out on a weekly basis as well."

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