WIGAN doesn’t have enough swimming pools to meet demand – and that’s BEFORE any of them are closed.
According to an independent report by Sport England, the borough is likely to need more pools in the future as populations increase.
The report was commissioned by councillors looking to offload two of the borough’s pools to save cash and comes in the wake of a call to community groups to take over the operation and management of Hindley and Tyldesley pools.
The report recognises that the opening of the new 25m pool in Wigan town centre has resulted in positive changes.
It then looks to the future to consider possible changes in demand for swimming based on potential increases in population in Hindley, Atherton and Leigh. It suggests that the closure of Tyldesley pool would be more detrimental to bathers than Hindley.
But in presenting half a dozen scenarios, including keeping Hindley and Tyldesley open, closing one or the other or shutting both, it concludes each time that satisfied pool demand would fall short of the 89 per cent English average by between two and six per cent.
The news of potential changes to the arrangements for the pool in Hindley prompted a campaign from local residents.
The council and Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust have always insisted that no decision about the future of the pool has yet been taken and that they will use the contents of this new report to inform any recommendations they make.
Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Coun Chris Ready, said: “This report will help us to reach a decision on the way forward by providing us with information about what the consequences of the various courses of action are likely to be.”
The findings of Sport England’s report broadly confirms claims by the council that the opening of the new pool in Wigan town centre would attract swimmers from Hindley and other pools, resulting in a fall in numbers.
It also notes that due to the geography of the borough, the waterspace available for residents is lower than that in neighbouring authorities and lower than the regional average but it has been improved by the new Life Centre pools opening.
Coun Ready said: “The council is faced with significant pressures on its budgets and has to make £66m of savings over four years. If we are to protect vital front-line services then difficult decisions must be made. We have listened to groups who are calling for their pool to be saved and at this stage no decision has been taken. This report provides us with the information we need to make the right choice.”
The Sport England report is to be debated by the Economy, Environment, Culture and Housing Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday November 23.