Aquarians swim club 'could be sunk'
Aquarians Swimming School chair Neil Smart (centre) with members and parents outside Kingswood Leisure Centre
A CHILDREN'S swimming club based at Kingswood Leisure Centre for more than 35 years may be forced to close as the pool operator tries to recoup income lost during lockdown.
Aquarians Swimming School runs a weekly 45-minute lesson followed by a 40-minute family swim for parents, relatives and siblings on Sunday afternoons.
But chairman Neil Smart said the club's future is in jeopardy as centre operator Circadian Trust wants to run its own lessons.
Neil said: “The trust has informed Aquarians that they will be using the Sunday afternoon slot used by Aquarians to run their own swimming lessons in order to generate income as their revenue has dropped as a result of the pool closures due to the Covid-19 situation.”
About 60 youngsters aged four to 16 are on the Aquarians' books with a waiting list of children wanting to join. Members pay £14 a month for both the lessons and family swim, making it cost-effective for families. Circadian charges £25 a month for a weekly lesson and free swimming at other times.
Circadian Trust, an independent charity, runs five leisure centres across South Gloucestershire, but was forced to close them following the announcement of lockdown measures in March. The centres opened again on July 27 after the Government lifted restrictions.
Neil said: “It is disappointing that Circadian Trust has decided without any consultation not to allow Aquarians to carry on hiring the pools at Kingswood Leisure Centre. As a result of this decision it will no doubt prove very difficult for the children to find anywhere else to go which provides the same level of opportunity to learn how to swim safely to the best of their ability at a very reasonable cost.”
Parents and guardians are writing to their MPs and members of South Gloucestershire Council to express their concern and disappointment that the Aquarians may be forced close if unable to find another venue.
Neil said: “This is a very sad time for us at Aquarians. We are a family/volunteer run school which offers a very unique opportunity for local children, some of whom have particular needs. Some of the older children go on to train to become swimming teachers at Swim England standard.
“To be told at short notice that we cannot return to our normal slot on a Sunday and not to be contacted to see if we could be accommodated by changing our lesson structure to be in line with Swim England guidelines - despite discussions taking place with other swimming clubs - is a real disappointment. As we currently have nowhere else available to hold our lessons, the future of the swimming school is now in jeopardy.”
Ben Beasley, director of commercial development at Circadian, said: “As with many organisations this is an incredibly challenging time for Circadian Trust during which we have been forced to prioritise our financial sustainability and the protection of our customers.
“We have had to make some very difficult decisions to help us secure our facilities for the community in the long term.
“The new social distancing guidelines have resulted in significantly reduced capacity in all areas. This has unfortunately caused the loss of some classes, sessions, clubs and other groups because we simply cannot fit them in.
“Swim England guidelines for operating swimming lessons during the pandemic includes a greatly reduced number of children allowed in each lesson, and has meant an increase in the amount of pool space required to run the lessons across all our sites.
“Even after this re-allocation exercise, we have unfortunately lost customers as we are unable to accommodate them in our own swim lesson programme which has to take priority over external organisations hiring space. We informed the club as soon as we possibly could once we had had clear guidance from Government about re-opening dates and restrictions.
“We are very sorry that we have had to make this decision and hope that the Aquarians find alternative facilities.”
Although new restrictions banning gatherings of more than six people were introduced from September 14, the Government has confirmed leisure centres canremai n open as long as they follow Covid-19 guidelines.
The Aquarians have had backing from professional strongman Ryan England, who said the news the club was being forced out was "very disappointing".
Ryan said: "Every child deserves the right to sport, from any background, and people shouldn't be denying them that at any level of the system.
"Sport has given me so much and to think that these kids are not getting the time they once had makes me feel they are being failed by the powers that be.
"Someone needs to come to their senses and liaise with the people responsible to find a positive resolution for everyone involved, as ultimately it's the children who suffer."