Swimmers lose out as pools are shut

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ONE leisure centre and several swimming pools have already closed in West Yorkshire since Leeds and Bradford councils announced their unprecedented packages of cuts in April.

East Leeds Leisure Centre, Rhodesway Pool at Allerton, the pool at Middleton Leisure Centre and the historic Manningham Pool in Bradford all closed over the summer. The loss of the latter was particularly heartfelt by local residents, as it dates back more than 100 years and is seen as one of the best-preserved old-style swimming baths in England.

“This is a sad, short-sighted decision which saves the council only a small amount of money,” said Ian Dungavell, director of the Victorian Society. “Manningham Pool is unique and nationally important; the most remarkable building of its type in the country.”

The closure of East Leeds Leisure Centre in April came only a few months after the South Leeds Leisure Centre in Beeston was shut, following an earlier round of council funding cuts.

But there, a campaign is building pace to reopen the centre.

Demonstrations were held outside the centre over the summer by the Save our Pools and Sports Hall group, with residents chanting “we want to swim” and waving banners.

The closure of Rhodesway Pool also drew vociferous protests, chiefly from the 100-strong Bradford Dolphin Swimming Club, which has trained at the pool for more than 30 years.

However, there were suggestions recently that the pool may yet reopen under the control of a private swimming academy.

In Garforth, meanwhile, the leisure centre is poised to be transferred over to a community interest company as Leeds City Council cuts its financial support.

The company will be headed up by the Schools Partnership Trust (SPT), which runs the local Garforth Academy.

“We are still working out the details, but the basic idea would be for the schoolchildren to use it during the day, and the community during the evenings and weekends,” said SPT director of facilities Mark Willett.

“Our aim is to improve access for the community.”

In Bramley, plans are in place for a local community group to take over the running of the local Baths there, after the council also cut its funding dramatically.