Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

City Pool Swimming Could End at Teatime; PUBLIC MAY HAVE TO LOOK ELSEWHERE AS CLUB TAKES OVER

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

City Pool Swimming Could End at Teatime; PUBLIC MAY HAVE TO LOOK ELSEWHERE AS CLUB TAKES OVER

Article excerpt

SWIMMERS face being left high and dry over plans to change a historic city pool.

It has emerged there could soon be no public swimming after teatime at a Newcastle's City Baths.

Council chiefs have decided to close the larger pool to the public after 4.30pm on weekdays to allow a swimming club more training time in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

The smaller of the two pools is already earmarked to close to make way for a youth centre.

That means people will be forced to travel to the new Northumbria University swimming pool when it opens, after the council negotiated a deal to let the public in.

Now swimmers fear the council is trying to engineer the closure of the City Baths by discouraging people from using it, but civic bosses have strenuously denied this.

The agreement to allow the City of Newcastle Amateur Swimming Club exclusive access to the larger pool is due to come into force on September 6. Currently public swimming is available in the main pool until 7pm from Monday to Wednesday, 6.30pm on Thursday and 6pm on Friday.

But under the plans the public will be barred from the 25m pool and have to use the smaller 23m pool from 4.30pm.

But with the 23m pool due to close in December, there will be no public swimming at the City Baths after 4.30pm. Swimmer Jim Davidson said: "For 30 years the elite squad has trained in the 23m pool, which has been largely given over to the club.

"Over the years they have managed to wrest more and more time from the general public.

"A lot of people who are not members of swimming clubs still train there, doing proper training sessions from their own training programmes.

"They are going to be told they can only go in the 23m pool with all the other swimmers and groups which use that pool.

"This is all to the detriment of the public and we need to fight it as best we can."

Another swimmer, Fiona Clarke, said: "The City Baths is in a very convenient location and there are all sorts of people who use the City Pool because of that.

"I think if they are dispersed to other places, for some of the groups it will mean they are no longer viable. It is edging out someone along the line."

Tony McKenna, the city council's head of leisure services, said the council was trying to "diversify" the activities it offered at the pool so as not to depend so much on swimming.

He said: "We are trying to strike a balance between the different needs of casual swimmers and other users of the pool. In the case of the swimming club we have an added impetus in that we are helping them realise their international ambitions - including getting Newcastle swimmers into the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

"Whenever there's a change in service there are always people it does not suit. People are very passionate about the facilities they use, especially if they have been using them for a long time. …

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