Council defends swimming baths move

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A MUM has hit out at council bosses for closing a section of a popular pool at certain times of the day as part of a cost-saving exercise.

The diving bay area at Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, Hartlepool, is closed to swimmers during the adult early morning and late evening sessions in a move which has saved Hartlepool Borough Council £7,000.

A floating barrier is used to restrict access when it is closed.

Civic chiefs say the move was to make savings and to re-open the diving bay area would mean an extra lifeguard having to be employed.

But Lorraine Hughes, a 49-year-old secretary, from Queensway, in Greatham, has hit out because she believes it penalises adult swimmers.

It has also led her mum, Mary Woolnough, 70, also of Greatham, from stopping swimming as she used to use the diving bay area as it was less busy and a shorter distance to swim.

The divorced mum-of-two, who still uses the pool, said: “I used to go swimming three times a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday with my mum .

“But she has stopped going because she does not feel comfortable or safe swimming in the longer section of pool.

“She is asthmatic and preferred to use the diving bay area, which was a shorter distance and also less busy.

“But now when it gets to a certain time they close that part, which is no good to my mum.

“It is unfair and it penalises the adult swimmers.

“It also means that the sessions are crowded now as there is less space.”

A council spokesman said: “As part of the council’s on-going drive to make savings, the sport and recreation service underwent a service delivery options (SDO) appraisal.

“As part of the new arrangements for public swimming introduced following this appraisal, the diving bay is now closed during adult early morning swimming (7.30am-9am Monday-Friday) and adult late evening swimming (8.45pm-9.45pm Monday/Wednesday/Friday).

“When the diving bay is closed, a boom is used to restrict access to this area.

“The reason for the closure of the diving bay is that we now have a reduced number of lifeguards on duty during these times.

“This reduction brought about a saving of around £7,000 a year and to re-open the diving bay would mean having to employ an additional lifeguard at this cost.

“We regret any inconvenience that this may be causing customers, but we cannot remove the boom without the extra member of staff.

“There are national guidelines on swim safety that we take very seriously and must adhere to.

“This is about providing a safe environment for swimmers within the resources available to us.”