Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell visited Newcastle Swim Team at one of their regular training sessions at Gosforth Pool. During the visit, Catherine watched the Newcastle Swim Team train and met with members the Newcastle Swim Team Committee and representatives from Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), who manage leisure facilities in Newcastle.
The visit follows Catherine’s campaign and support for Newcastle City Council’s Levelling Up Fund bid to develop a £22mllion state of the art, net-zero carbon Outer West Leisure Centre. The new centre would include a swimming pool, sports hall and gym, as well as a café, library and community space. Prior to the closure of the West Denton Pool, Newcastle Swim Team had used the pool for training.
Catherine, GLL and Newcastle Swim Team discussed the support required for the leisure sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic and is expecting to see cost pressures rising due to increasing energy prices. Swim England’s 2021 report has highlighted that “since the pandemic began 206 pools have closed, either permanently or temporarily, including 68 public pools” and that “based on current pool build trends, the number of available pools could decrease by more than 40% by the end of the decade”.
In July, Catherine led a debate in Parliament on Water Safety. She took the opportunity to outline that the National Curriculum requires pupils to be able to swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school. However, data from Swim England forecasts that by 2025, just 35% of Year 7s in the most deprived areas of England will meet the statutory requirement.
Following the visit, Catherine commented
“This summer saw so much great success for Team GB in the pool at the Olympics and Paralympics, and I am sure many have been inspired to take up swimming – our next generation of swimmers could be right here training with Newcastle Swim Team.
“Swimming helps to improve physical and mental fitness and analysis from Swim England shows that weekly swimming saves the NHS and social care more than £350million a year. Investing in grassroots and community sport generates £4 for every £1 in investment for our economy and society.
“Yet we know that over 200 swimming pools have closed during the pandemic, and others are under threat, especially with increasing energy prices. I am hugely concerned that areas with existing health inequalities and in the most disadvantaged areas are disproportionately losing access to their swimming, fitness and leisure facilities”.
On the Levelling Up Fund bid, Catherine added
“Enabling residents in the Outer West of Newcastle to have access to a state of the art, net-zero carbon leisure facility would be transformational for the whole area and would also support the brilliant Newcastle Swim Team.
“If the Government want to put their warm words on levelling up into action, they could do no better than get behind our bid and ensure the m necessary funding for swimming and Leisure on the Outer West”.
Liz Idowu, Chair of the Newcastle Swim Team added:
“Newcastle Swim Team are so grateful for the continuing support of Catherine McKinnell in her tireless campaign for a new pool in Newcastle, as well as improvement to existing stock.
“Our swimming success as a country can only continue if we have the facilities around the country to support grassroots swimming.
“As a Club we recognise the incredible long term outcomes that swimming offers to all our swimmers, this cannot be sustained without improvement to stock in the City of Newcastle.”
Tim Bestford, Head of Service (North) at GLL commented
“As the UK’s largest provider of public swimming and a not-for-profit social enterprise operator, we are only too acutely aware of the threat to the nation’s facilities posed by under investment.
“It is vital we receive our funding share for local leisure facilities as these are essential to the health and wellbeing of local communities, clubs and individuals.
“So we are delighted to hear how passionate Catherine is about supporting the Levelling up Fund Bid and thank her for challenging the Government to support the bid which we believe if successful will be a catalyst for change in Newcastle in regards to leisure provision.
“GLL are committed to working with NCC and local partners like Newcastle Swim Team to provide a sustainable leisure offer in Newcastle.”
Further details on Catherine’s campaign to secure swimming provision and in support of the Outer West Leisure Centre Levelling Up bid can be found:
Coverage of the debate that Catherine led on Water Safety