THOUSANDS of youngsters are set to make a splash after civic chiefs launched a free swimming scheme for school children during the summer holidays – and also pledged to take them to the pool.
Hartlepool children under the age of 16 will be able to swim for free on mornings at the Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, every weekday from Wednesday, July 24 to Friday, August 30.
As part of the innovative Hartlepool Borough Council scheme, the local authority is also providing free bus transport to and from the leisure centre, with pick-up points from every school across the town.
Both the free swims and free transport will be operated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis’ and children can choose to make their own way to Mill House but officials say priority to the pool will be given to those travelling on the free council buses.
The scheme was launched by councillors at Mill House Leisure Centre.
Council leader, Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “Following the abolition of the directly-elected mayor system, the new-look council gave a commitment to listen to the people of Hartlepool and try wherever possible to deliver what they want.
“Local residents have informed us that a free swimming scheme at Mill House would be much-welcomed given the financial pressures that many families are facing and everyone recognises that swimming is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy.
“Also many families in Hartlepool do not have their own car so providing free transport will make things easier as well as saving them money.”
Labour councillor Carl Richardson, chair of the health and wellbeing board, added: “As a council I think it’s so important that we do everything possible to encourage children and young people to participate in sport and be active.
“If we can encourage all young people to be active in their early years there is more chance of them staying fit and healthy as they grow older.”
In total there will three bus routes - North, South and Central with two buses on each route on weekday mornings with the first buses setting off at 8.50am.
After arriving at Mill House, youngsters will have an hour in the pool before getting back on the bus for the return journey.
Anyone under the age of eight must be accompanied both on the bus and in the swimming pool by a parent or responsible adult over 16 and accompanying parents or responsible adults will be required to pay the normal admission charge.
Labour councillor Chris Simmons, chair of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “I fully support any initiative which encourages young people to participate in sport and physical activity.
“I am sure that the scheme will be welcomed by families in Hartlepool and it’s also a great way to maximise the usage of one of the town’s main leisure facilities.”
A leaflet, which will include the free bus timetable, will be available from Mill House Leisure Centre, Headland Sports Hall, Brierton Sports Centre, the Civic Centre and all libraries from Monday, July 15.
All schools will also be asked to hand out the leaflet to children before they break up for the summer holidays.
For further information call (01429) 223791.