The volunteer-run Stone and District Swimming Club could face closure due to policy clash with Freedom Leisure who will be operating the new facility.
Stone and District Swimming Club (SADSC) has bee around for more than 45-years however when they met with Freedom Leisure to discuss moving to the new pool, from the Alleynes pool, they were advised that they would no longer be able to provide lessons to the youngsters who currently make up over 60% of their membership.
Freedom Leisure runs the Stafford Borough leisure facilities, including the existing Alleynes Pool, and will operate the new Stone Leisure Centre when it opens in April 2019.
The club has been advised that to protect Freedom Leisure’s own teaching programmes the club would not be able to hire the pool facilities to teach stages 1 to 6 which affects 80 of the 140 members that the club currently teaches.
A Freedom Leisure spokesperson told A Little Bit of Stone:
“As operators of public leisure facilities in Stafford Borough on behalf of Stafford Borough Council (SBC), Freedom Leisure (FL) is delighted to be the operator of the new centre in Stone upon completion in 2019.
In line with our bid the new pool timetable has been reviewed to ensure usage is maximised and our learn to swim programme is a key part of this. We are very experienced in operating learn to swim programmes with 35,000 students across England and Wales.
We work in partnership with many local swimming clubs across the UK to ensure participation pathways beyond learn to swim are established and maintained to provide swimmers with the opportunity for lifelong participation, in line with Swim England’s guidance. Ultimately we (Freedom Leisure, SBC, Stone and District Swimming Club and Swim England) all want the same, to nurture and support local talent and to grow swimming participation.
After a meeting with Stone and District Swimming Club we will work with them to support their transition to the new facility and grow as a swimming club.”
William Conaghan on behalf of Stafford Borough Council added:
“The building of the pool in an exciting new facility is part of a significant investment in leisure for Stone and the surrounding villages.
The council, Freedom Leisure and the club all want to promote swimming in Stone. And we know the club and Freedom Leisure have had an initial meeting to discuss the booking of the new pool.
Freedom Leisure already provides swimming lessons for around 1200 children at Stafford Leisure Centre.”
When the news broke at the end of December Stone Town Council, and Stafford Borough Councillor Jill Hood told us:
“Today I learnt of the refusal by Freedom Leisure to honour four and a half hours hire of the new pool by the Swim Club SADSC who have an arrangement at Alleynes pool.
This is a valuable non profit service provided by volunteer teachers who give up their free time to teach very young children to swim and for some parents its an affordable option. The swimming club has been operating for 46 years and has taught thousands of children giving them confidence in the water with many of them going on to become very competent swimmers, an essential skill for everyone.
I attended a meeting at Stafford Borough council last week when Freedom’s directors attended and showcased by film what they had done to date in our borough, they were very keen to push their community spirit and involvement which in this case seems to have failed. One of their achievements was a 20% increase in footfall for the Shakespearean production at Stafford Castle, but don’t get too excited as the year before it was monsoon weather and this year the weather was perfect! They didn’t mention they would not be accomodating SADSC at the new pool on Westbridge Park, resulting in the possible closure of our swimming club.
Over the years there have been thousands of people who either live in our town or who came to Stone from surrounding areas to the swimming club. Stafford Borough Council is run by a majority group of Conservatives who thought it best to hand over our borough leisure facilities to Freedom. I would urge every one of you to bear in mind that in around 19 weeks there will be an election in May, they all want to be re-elected. Please let them know that if they do not make sure Freedom Leisure make room for the club at the new pool then you will not be supporting them at the ballot box in the forthcoming election, as it will mean the demise of the Stone and District Swimming club. As ward member for Westbridge Park and also the county councillor for Stone Town I will do my best to help the Little Ducklings continue to have swimming tuition. “
Freedom Leisure and SADSC will meet further in January as they attempt to resolve the situation for the good of all parties involved.