Protest planned against swimming pool closure in Halifax as town's aquatic sports clubs in jeopardy

A protest will take place on Wednesday evening in Halifax against plans to shelve the town’s facilities for diving and synchronised swimming.

campaigners have warned that the proposed pool won’t be sufficient for the town’s aquatic clubs to train in as it won’t have diving facilities and isn’t deep enough for synchronised swimming. Pictured: Members of the synchronised swimming club

The 50-year-old pool in the West Yorkshire town has never re-opened since the pandemic hit, as it needs a refurbishment costing some £600,000.

Instead, Calderdale Council plan to build a new leisure centre at North Bridge, but campaigners have warned that the proposed pool won’t be sufficient for the town’s aquatic clubs to train in as it won’t have diving facilities and isn’t deep enough for synchronised swimming.

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A motion calling on the council to rethink their plans to permanently close the new pool will be voted on this evening.

Liberal Democrat Coun Sue Holdsworth, who has proposed the motion, told the Yorkshire Post that Halifax’s synchronised swimming club has lost some 40 members as their parents and carers can’t take them to train at Todmorden, where the club is currently meeting.

She said: “It’s just inadequate because we do want to encourage elite swimmers. Elite swimmers are not elite in the sense that it costs an enormous amount of money, like show-jumping. It’s for everyone.

“My personal view is that I would prefer the old pool to be refurbished. It’s a very interesting architectural example of 1960s brutalism and inside they have a fabulous tiled mosaic, which is worth preserving.

“But if the council are so minded to build a new facility, the pool should be like-for-like and have turning blocks, sufficient depth for water polo and all the aquatic sports.

“If something has to go, I suggest it should be the cafe. There’s loads of cafes around Central Halifax.”

The protest, before Wednesday's full council meeting, will see members of the synchronised swimming club approach councillors to support the motion.

Campaigners estimate 22,678 hours of swimming will be lost in the town if the North Bridge plans go ahead.

A report from Swim England earlier this week predicts that by 2030, on current trends, the number of pools will have dropped from 4,336 to around 2,468 – a fall of 40 per cent.

It also estimates that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of local authorities in England have a deficit of at least one average-sized pool.

Swim England has called on councils to conduct an analysis of its pool stock to understand if it has the right pools in the right place to meet the needs of the community.

Coun Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, said: “Based on usage from 2019/20, the proposed pool will accommodate over 98 per cent of current users and we hope will attract many more new users, with our modern, welcoming and inclusive offer.

“We know how important diving and synchronised swimming facilities are to some people, and we considered the options for including these in the new building. However, these activities require the swimming pool to be a lot deeper, which would add significant cost to the Council-funded project, so unfortunately it will not be possible to provide these facilities..

“We understand that some people are disappointed about this. The Council is under extreme pressure to make budget savings across all services, especially due to the pandemic. A key condition for the new leisure centre is that it must be self-funding, so that the income generated is used to repay the amount which has to be borrowed for the construction. Deepening the swimming pool would add costs to the build which could not be repaid from the income that the centre will generate.