Swimming club’s frustration as Larne pool remains closed

The head coach of Larne Swimming Club has spoken out over his frustration at the ongoing closure of the town’s pool.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 12:15 pm

Commenting on social media, Peter Hill says that “the job of a council is to provide a service, a service that the ratepayers have paid for”.

“Leisure industry is an essential service and the pool is a key component of that service. Many people rely on it as their only means of exercise.

“If Mid and East Antrim Borough Council does not follow every other council area in NI and reopen their centres, we are running the risk of losing not only grassroots sport and elite sport from the council but also causing untold damage to both mental and physical health potentially years to come.”

Larne Leisure Centre.

Mid and East Antrim’s leisure centres shut for a four-week period following the Northern Ireland Executive’s tightening of Covid-19 restrictions. All sport below elite level has been suspended.

A decision on the reopening of the borough’s swimming pools is not expected to take place until the next council meeting in December.

Mr Hill added: “We are every bit as elite. We have international athletes.”

He pointed out the club pays the council approximately £60,000 membership fees annually although this is currently suspended.

He went on to say that the closure of the borough’s pools “does not make any sense” and the council is “throwing money away”.

“The swimming club programme has effectively stopped.”

He suggested that if the council makes use of the furlough scheme, the pool may not reopen until next year.

An earlier delay in the reopening of Larne swimming pool after lockdown saw Olympic hopefuls from the club travelling to Bangor to train.

Record-holder Danielle Hill is a European semi-finalist and Commonwealth finalist and Conor Ferguson, also an Irish record-holder, is a Commonwealth finalist and medallist at world junior level.

The council has explained the latest Executive guidance enables pools and gyms to remain open, but this is only in the context of individual training sessions and does not permit group sessions or the mixing of households.

“It is therefore not financially viable for council to provide these two services given the poor level of uptake to date since reopening, coupled with the high running costs of ensuring appropriate levels of staffing and safety measures required to protect the public and our staff.”

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston has stated: “Despite strong promotion, the numbers of residents using our leisure centres since reopening remains extremely low, reflecting decreased public appetite for these services at this current time.

“We have a duty, which is more pressing than ever, to protect ratepayers’ money, and this is why we have taken the decision to close these facilities for this short period of time, and their closure will also help suppress the spread of the virus.

“We recognise the decisions taken by council will inconvenience a number of our citizens, but we must do all we can to protect the health and well-being of users and staff, and our finances during this crisis.

“We thank our citizens for their understanding and patience as we all work together to overcome this virus, which has caused such huge disruption to our daily lives and devastated so many.”

Click here to read: Olympic hopefuls travel out of Larne to training as swimming pool ‘disappointingly’ remains shut

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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