Swimming lessons ban across Fenland leisure centres sparks outcry

PUBLISHED: 17:29 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:29 25 August 2020

Freedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT/FILE

Freedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT/FILE

Archant

A ban on swimming clubs using Fenland leisure centres to teach non-swimmers has provoked an outcry.

Freedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANTFreedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT

Freedom Leisure, which operate the three Fenland Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme.

The move will affect March Marlins Swimming Club, the Dolphins Club in Whittlesey and Wisbech Swimming Club.

Mark McGowen, president of March Marlins Swimming Club, posted to Facebook that “it was a very sad day” for the club and called for swimming’s governing bodies as well as MP Steve Barclay to help them.

Cllr Jan French, deputy leader of Fenland Council, said she and other councillors have previously given financial support to Marlins and was keen to help them again.

Freedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANTFreedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT

She wrote: “My twins were taught by the Marlins to swim. All kids need to learn to swim. Disappointed to hear this. On the case.”

Empress Swimming Pool in Chatteris has also offered their support to March Marlins.

A council spokesperson said the decision to end lessons for non-swimmers was planned, but brought forward due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MORE: Leisure centres across Fenland build on successful reopening by extending opening hours

Freedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT/FILEFreedom Leisure, who run the Fenland District Council centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, have said they will not allow clubs to teach non-swimmers after a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme. Picture: ARCHANT/FILE

Cllr Sam Clark, portfolio holder for leisure at Fenland Council, said lesson capacity has been reduced by 20 per cent since pools reopened.

With extra cleaning time between sessions this had forced Freedom Leisure to “change the way they deliver their programme and hire pool time”.

Cllr Clark said: “With over 1,800 children learning to swim in Fenland pools every week, this has unfortunately resulted in a reduction of available time for other sessions, including local swimming clubs.

“Freedom Leisure are looking forward to welcoming children back into the pool for swimming lessons.

“Freedom will be working closely with swimming clubs to ensure their sustainability and club swimming continues in March and Wisbech, but swimming clubs will coach swimming in the future, but not teach non or weak swimmers.”

Cllr Clark added: “Unfortunately, in Whittlesey, there is no pool time available to the Dolphins Club as over 600 children already attend Freedom’s Learn to Swim sessions, with the Covid arrangements necessitating the use of pool timeslots following usual lesson times.

“This arrangement will be kept closely under review, with the aim being to welcome the Dolphins Club, amongst others, back into the pool soon as Covid restrictions allow.”


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