‘Future of our swimming club is under threat’

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Members of Knottingley Swimming Club say the closure of the town’s pool could put its future in jeopardy.

Wakefield Council plan to shut Knottingley Sports Centre and Castleford Pool in January, after announcing proposals to build a new £15m leisure complex in Pontefract Park. The centre would serve the whole of the Five Towns.

Volunteers at the Knottingley club fear the changes will lead to a drop in members, and are worried it could spell the end for the 45-year-old club.

Liam Bradley, 33, who has been a member since the age of five, said: “Knottingley is classed as a deprived area. Many people won’t be able to afford the cost, never mind the time involved in getting to Pontefract to use those facilities.”

The swimming club, founded in 1971, currently has around 250 members, across its competitive section, masters squad and children’s lessons.

But under the new proposals, it would only be able to operate at a competitive level and its lessons would be scrapped.

Karen Collins, the council’s service director for culture and sport, said: “If the proposals go-ahead accredited swimming lessons will be offered by the council in our pools. This would mean the club would operate the same as other swimming clubs in the district.”

She added: “All the other clubs who use Wakefield Council facilities offer children to the chance further develop their skills or swim at a competitive level, but only after they have learnt to swim.”

Tracy Macinnes, who has volunteered at Knottingley Swimming Club for more than 20 years said the change could be a major blow as there would no longer be direct progression from learners to competitors. She said: “We are going to have to find kids that can swim to a certain standard for us to continue.”

Mrs Macinnes also expressed concern that the current Pontefract Pool will not be able accommodate an increased number of swimmers until the new leisure centre opens. She said: “We are going to have to try to find pool time for our club in one leisure centre, which is already packed.”

She added: “Knottingley Pool will close in January and we don’t know how long it will be before the new leisure centre in Pontefract Park is built. But even then, we feel we will be fighting for pool time because all three old pools will be shut.”

Ms Collins said the council was working with swimming clubs across the district to identify which pools they could be relocated to.

She said: “As part of this we are looking at the capacity in all our pools not just Pontefract. As soon we have a proposed plan we will share it with them.”

Knottingley MP Yvette Cooper urged people to respond to the council’s ongoing consultation over the leisure proposals.

She said: “Closing Knottingley and Castleford pools in January will cause serious problems for all the clubs and groups that use them and make it much harder for families to get the exercise they need.

“This will really hit Knottingley town centre too because the sports centre includes the gym, sports halls and the library. We need everyone to work together to come up with an alternative plan.”