Sheffield's swimming ‘desert’ revealed after Team GB Olympics star Duncan Scott slams pool closures

Sheffield has five times less public swimming space than other parts of the country, exclusive analysis shows.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 7:07 am

The pool ‘deserts’ around the country have been laid bare after Tokyo Olympics star Duncan Scott warned of the “quite sad” closure of pools across the UK.

Of all the nine regions across England, Yorkshire and the Humber had the sixth-highest number of public swimming pools, with 196.

And 18 of those are in Sheffield. Ten are general pools, two are Olympic size, one is suitable for diving, two are leisure pools and four are teaching pools.

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Ponds Forge in Sheffield

And Ponds Forge, the largest pool in Sheffield city centre, remains closed.

There is a total of 5,520 square metres of pool space in Sheffield, meaning there is 937 square metres per 100,000 of the city’s population.

It is five times lower than the area with the highest amount of pool space, which is Rushmoor, in Hampshire, where there is 5,450 square metres per 100,000 of the population.

And Yorkshire has half the public pool space of the South East. The difference is equivalent to 39 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The news comes as Sheffield’s popular leisure pool at Ponds Forge remains closed to families after being shut by bosses at the beginning of the summer holidays. They have not revealed when it will reopen.

Great Britain Diving Federation president Jim McNally said the Government’s policy of providing sport for all was “in tatters”.

He said: “This is a situation which is getting worse and worse and the grassroots sport is being allowed to wither on the vine.”

Swim England said it predicted the nation would lose 40 per cent of its existing pools by the end of the decade, “potentially shutting millions out of the activities they love”.

The Government said its £100 million National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund had “secured the survival and reopening of more than 1,100 swimming pools all over the country”.

JPI Media analysis looked at all pools which are open to the public for free or on a pay-and-swim basis, excluding commercially-owned sites or those only available to members.

There are 1,997 public pools across 1,187 sites in England, totalling 503,233 square metres of pool space.

A spokesperson from Swim England said: “For everyone to be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of swimming, it is absolutely vital that there are appropriate facilities in the right locations.

“Swim England’s 2019 Value of Swimming report forecast that the number of pools in England is set to decline by 40 per cent by the end of the decade, potentially shutting millions out of the activities they love.

“The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the issue and it’s clear that local authorities need both short and long-term funding for facilities.

“Next month, we will be publishing a Value of Facilities report containing new insight which will give a clearer picture of the issue and the steps that need to be taken.”

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We're prioritising the nation's fitness and health as we build back better from the pandemic, and swimming is a fantastic sport for all ages to enjoy.

“The Government has provided an unprecedented £1 billion of public money to ensure the survival of the grassroots, professional sport and leisure sectors.

“This includes the £100 million National Leisure Centre Recovery Fund which secured the survival and reopening of more than 1,100 swimming pools all over the country.

“On top of this Sport England has provided over £8.5 million to swimming and diving projects, and over £16 million to Swim England since 2017.”