Do we have enough swimming pools in East Anglia?

Swimming stats Swimming stats

Thursday, January 23, 2014
9:31 AM

A new league table reveals that people in south Norfolk are among the least likely to swim regularly in the country.

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Alex Pinniger, who is the head coach at the UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYAlex Pinniger, who is the head coach at the UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

But are we really sinking or are we in fact in the fast lane when it comes to the number of people swimming in East Anglia?

Swimming is the second most popular activity in the UK, behind fishing, and is one of the best ways to get fit.

“It’s very good as an exercise and one of the best things you can do,” said Ben Jones, Active Norfolk’s sports development manager who will take over as director from next month. “It’s really good for people with arthritis because it’s non-weight bearing and it exercises the whole body.

“However people face issues around body confidence and many are facing increased time and financial constraints so accessing good facilities on their doorstep which are affordable is really important.”

The Olympic effect

The performance of Team GB’s swimmers was one of the few disappointments of London 2012.

Rebecca Adlington, above, won two bronze medals and Michael Jamieson a silver, but that was short of UK Sport’s target of between five and seven podium finishes.

The picture was more rosy in Beijing, when GB came away with two golds, thanks to Rebecca Adlington, and two silver and two bronze medals.

Expectations had been raised after the team claimed six medals at the 2011 World Championships.

But at the 2013 event in Barcelona, British swimmers could only claim one – a 50m freestyle bronze for Francesca Halsall.

While the link between elite performance and wider recreational participation is unclear, Alex Pinniger, head coach at the UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club, believes Norfolk swimmers have been inspired by the Paralympic success of the club’s Jessica-Jane Applegate, who was just 15 when she won a gold medal in 2012 in London.

He said: “We have 1,300 members in the club and everybody was tuned in to watch and we had probably about 100 to 150 go down and get tickets to watch it live.

“When you see somebody who has grown up in the area and is only 15 win a gold medal in London it doesn’t get more inspirational than that. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

The new league table, based on Sport England data, showed that just 5.7pc of the adults in south Norfolk say they swim once a week, putting it 201st out of 221 local authorities. Neighbouring swimmers from north Norfolk dive in slightly more often, with 6.6pc swimming once a week which positions the area at 159, while Norwich comes in at number 106 with 7.3pc of adults putting in the lengths at least once a week.

Diabetes UK published the league table to launch its Swim 22 challenge to encourage people to get fit while raising money for the charity by swimming 22 miles - the distance across the English Channel - between February 22 and May 22.

Sharon Roberts, eastern regional manager for Diabetes UK, said: “There are around 24,900 people in north and south Norfolk with diabetes and of those 5,400 don’t know they have the condition.

“Swimming is a great way of getting your regular physical activity. And because many people find it so enjoyable, it is something they may be more likely to stick to in the long run.”

Swimming pools where members of the public can swim include:

Beccles - Beccles Lido (from May to September only)

Bradwell - Phoenix Pool

Bungay - Bungay Pool and Gym

Dereham - Dereham Leisure Centre

Diss - Diss Swim and Fitness Centre

Downham Market - Downham Market Leisure Centre

Great Yarmouth - Great Yarmouth Marina Centre

Hunstanton - Oasis Sports and Leisure Centre

King’s Lynn - St James’ Swimming and Fitness Centre

Lowestoft - Waterlane Leisure Centre

North Walsham - Victory Swimming and Fitness Centre

Norwich - Riverside Leisure Centre

Norwich - Sportspark at the UEA

Sheringham - Splash Leisure and Fitness Centre

Stradbroke - Stradbroke Swim and Fitness Centre

Thetford - Breckland Leisure Centre

Wymondham - Wymondham Leisure Centre

Alex Pinniger, head coach at the UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club, believes swimming facilities in and around Norwich are “the best facilities in Great Britain”, particularly because of the wealth of pools in schools and at a grassroots level.

He said: “The Riverside is an excellent swimming pool in the centre of Norwich and we use the Sportspark which is, I believe, a world-class facility.

“I think we are very spoilt in Norwich and Norfolk at the moment.”

However, there is an acknowledgement that more access to pools is always wanted by clubs and swimmers.

Paralympic gold medal winner Jessica-Jane Applegate with her coach Alex Pinniger.Paralympic gold medal winner Jessica-Jane Applegate with her coach Alex Pinniger.

Mr Jones said: “The thing I always hear from swimming clubs is they want more pool time and more access to pools.

“But from a pool planning perspective, pools are a huge financial drain and very few, if any, pools make any money. Almost without exception, they lose money.”

With 37,000 new homes and 27,000 new jobs planned for the greater Norwich area by 2026, it’s important to ensure that current leisure facilities are improved and increased.

Ben Jones, from Active Norfolk, said Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) has commissioned a study, which is hoped to be completed towards the end of this year, looking at what current leisure facilities and swimming pools there are in the area, and what will be needed if extra homes are built.

The document will be used to apply for funding from bodies like Sport England, as well as for securing financial contributions from housebuilders.

Mr Jones says: “It is likely to suggest the need to invest in existing school pools and other community sports facilities.”

Many parents are unaware that it is a statutory Key Stage 2 requirement for a child to swim 25m unaided.

The results of the largest ever school swimming census conducted in England, by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) in 2013, found that this is met by just 49pc of state school pupils.

Put starkly, 1.1 million school children cannot swim. The census collected data from more than 3,500

primary schools across England, and gathered opinions from more than 1,000 parents.

The census figure for Norfolk, although it is based on a small sample of respondents, was 64pc - which placed it among the best performing counties.

The census found the chief barrier to schools providing swimming lessons was the cost - for example the cost of transporting children to a pool and the hire cost of the pool, or in maintaining a school swimming pool.

Mick Castle, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for education and schools, said: “It is positive that more children in Norfolk are achieving the expected levels at swimming in Key Stage 2 than seen nationally. However, schools are not complacent and are keen to explore ways of ensuring that as many children as possible can benefit from swimming lessons.

“This can be particularly challenging in a large rural county like Norfolk, as many children will have to travel some distance to a pool. We offer advice to head teachers about how to make the best of planning this within the curriculum and have developed specific, bespoke training for teachers and teaching assistants so that they can work alongside swimming instructors to support the learning poolside, so that pupils get the most from their planned swimming lessons.

“A swimming instructor cannot supervise a full class of up to 30 children at any one time on their own and the county training course for school teachers means that they are able to work with the instructor to include the whole class. This means that all children can benefit from a full lesson, rather than having to take turns in the pool.

“We believe this has had an impact on standards of teaching and pupil achievement, together with the very effective and hard work of the swimming instructors at the various pools used by Norfolk’s schools.”

The UEA City of Norwich Swimming Club teaches around 1,000 children to swim through its Norwich Penguins scheme, which has 36 highly-trained teachers.

Head coach Alex Pinniger said while many cities had closed school swimming pools, leaving only one or two, Norwich still has 10 or 11 based in and around the city, which are used extensively for teaching children to swim.

Many competitive swimmers are under 18, and the sport has a high drop-out rate from the mid to late teens, but the swimming club is hoping to encourage more swimmers to continue into their 20s through partnership schemes with the UEA and Easton College.

Do you think there are enough swimming pools in East Anglia? Do you swim often? If not, what are the reasons why you don’t swim? Please add your comments below.

18 comments

  • never forget regular that access to a swimming pool and the ability to swim is a essential life skill in this region with so much coast line rivers and broads

    Report this comment

    k day

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • In the last century, municipalities built and ran their own pools because they were horrified at the number of drownings in rivers, canals etc. Those days are gone and it's all left to market forces these days. And the free market will provide. Won't it?

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Monday, January 27, 2014

  • To be quite honest I'd love to go swimming all the time with my 2 year old but I just find the pools are too cold and after 10 minutes he's freezing. He does go to lessons once a week in a school pool which is considerably warmer and loves it but it's such a shame there are not more warm public pools near the centre of norwich. We occasionally take him to nuffields gym pool but kids time is only on a couple of hours a day during working hours) and you need to sell a kidney to afford to get in !

    Report this comment

    Lucy Bridge

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

  • They are always so busy, I cannot stand the overcrowding, especially lessons where there are tons of other kids and mums trying to sort their little ones out..at tea times too!!! I would also like to add that 2 of my children now have varucas because of going to these large public swimming pools. Mine all swim, we choose to go to a smaller private pool, where I know the owners, cleaner, much more enjoyable family time and a damn sight more cheaper for us as a whole family than visiting these large human soups!!!

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    luanmapo

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • more pools should offer towel hire, pay entry fee and allow swimming in there life time swim suit that mum and dad gave them would solve issuse "“However people face issues around body confidence"

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    k day

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • We do not have enough swimming pools in our region of Norfolk. Fewer school children have learnt to swim these days. Unless their parents, in the majority of cases have paid for lessons or teach them themselves. Norwich are lucky to have the 50meter pool to use close by. In Kings Lynn we have only the one public pool 25m. If we had a facility to use close by with ten lanes 50meters in length including diving facilities and seating for spectators as have Luton and Sheffield Ponds forge pool for example, I would agree.

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    Bob

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

  • For years GYBC council tax payers paid something approaching £20 pa per head ( correct me if I am wrong V) to keep the Marina Centre running because of the agreement GYBC signed with a management company. All to provide a swimming pool where the design was hotly disputed by those who wanted a proper swimming pool. Of course the one we got was for the holiday trade and some years, on some days, it was like swimming in a bowl of chlorine and p*ss - a pal who worked there would warn us off when the water quality was getting really tricky to maintain. In my book the tax payers in GY dont have a good public facility on their doorstep and it is no wonder those who can afford a club membership take that option.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • What I would like is a Lido on the sea front again.

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    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • Learning to swim in a heated swimming pool would probably not have prevented many of the drownings highlighted in the statistics. In my opinion many have a cavalier approach to water in general because they think they can swim. Look at the twits at Sea Palling etc and on the Broads in their boats not wearing life jackets. One would have to be able to swim really well to survive falling in a running tide on parts of the Bure or Yare, Learning to swim is brilliant exercise, but learning not to drown is a different lesson altogether-fear of and respect for water. Those who have family members who make a living at sea will know the difference.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

  • Maybe we do. Maybe we dont. The main issue is affordability.

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    "V"

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • No fun, when you can't even dive in.

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    Blocked User

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • To be quite honest I'd love to go swimming all the time with my 2 year old but I just find the pools are too cold and after 10 minutes he's freezing. He does go to lessons once a week in a school pool which is considerably warmer and loves it but it's such a shame there are not more warm public pools near the centre of norwich. We occasionally take him to nuffields gym pool but kids time is only on a couple of hours a day during working hours) and you need to sell a kidney to afford to get in !

    Report this comment

    Lucy Bridge

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

  • There are lots of health clubs all over Norfolk with swimming pools and most cannot get enough members to use the facilities that already exist. Council money should not be used to provide such facilities. If people want to swim, then they should pay the market rate.

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • Fakenham has 2 school swimming pools. One has been shut due to it not being suitable to use and the other is shutting in 6 months times and the council (or whoever) said they can't afford to keep it open!! It's madness and that won't leave anywhere in town for our children to have swimming lessons in school or privately. If we have a pay to use pool we would use it every week but think travelling to Dereham or sheringham puts people off swimming. We wantneed one in Fakenham

    Report this comment

    Claire Brown

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • It is becoming expensive to swim in some cases, the Government want people to exercise more for health, but do nothing to ease the cost for some people, this also includes using a gym

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    Derek McDonald

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • I don't think a round trip of 25 miles is considered to be "good facilities" on my doorstep.

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • Fakenham has 2 school swimming pools. One has been shut due to it not being suitable to use and the other is shutting in 6 months times and the council (or whoever) said they can't afford to keep it open!! It's madness and that won't leave anywhere in town for our children to have swimming lessons in school or privately. If we have a pay to use pool we would use it every week but think travelling to Dereham or sheringham puts people off swimming. We wantneed one in Fakenham

    Report this comment

    Claire Brown

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • Firstly may I say how sorry I am to hear the news about the pool situation in Fakenham. It is ridiculous and goes to show just how out of touch some people are to allow this to happen. After reading your report again EDP, Mr Jones needs to take a closer look and listen to the people who regularly use these facilities on a daily and weekly basis away from the Norwich area. As Norwich is already spoilt for choice it seems. Unlike other areas of Norfolk I believe. It is bewildering that you have not gained the opinion of all of Norfolk's smaller less well funded pools and swimming clubs. If you talk to the parents who's children swim at these clubs or to the public who use them you may have some idea as to how expensive swimming is as a sport or a recreation if you are lucky enough to have a public pool close by. I can fully understand peoples frustration's with the lack of space or pool time for public and club swimmers alike. There are not enough pools for the general public. Where I live, the three large secondary schools do not have a pool on site at all. Swimming is not taken seriously here in schools as a "sport" either, from my experience. So to hear on the one hand how fantastically good swimming is for the health of us all. Then to be told that pools are not cost efficient and they are a huge financial drain on resources and almost without exception lose money. Well you cannot have it both ways. The government should help to keep pools open and see it as an investment to help reduce the strain on our NHS in the future. After all, our population is increasing and swimming is the second most popular activity in the UK. with all those health benefits. Therefore more pool space is need, more pools need to be built not closed. In doing so, helping to improve the health of the public, and making a great saving for the NHS. I would suggest you look for the highest local population figures within the Norfolk boarders excluding Norwich. One of these areas requires a large pool. Well the Ideal solution would be to think ahead for once get the funding together from the relevant government bodies Sport England etc and build at least one full size Olympic pool with 10 lanes and a separate diving pool and have a separate fun pool all under the one roof, not in Norwich though, as they have several pools to chose from already. Just visit Sheffield's pool, to see all that is needed. This facility would create many jobs in its construction, also when finished. Many swimming competitions, diving and the like, could be held throughout the year bringing in revenue to the Norfolk area via hotel use, to give one example. Local schools would have good reason to use such a facility. The general public would be drawn to use such a place with plenty of space and catering for all ages. It could be built echo friendly using all the best insulation materials, solar panels on the roof, etc, or use the heat created from the incinerator which we are probably going to have forced upon us to save on running costs maybe.

    Report this comment

    Bob

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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