New Halifax pool 'too shallow' say champion swim club
Plans for Halifax’s new pool have left the town’s medal-winning synchronised swimming club fearing for its future.
Halifax Synchro Club says the proposed plan for the pool, to be built as part of a leisure centre complex at the current North Bridge Leisure Centre site, is too shallow for them to train in.
Head Coach Charlotte Hughes - who started the club 20 years ago - fears that without a suitable facility in Halifax, the club will flounder.
“I feel massively disappointed,” she said. “It’s so short-sighted.
“We were the best in the North East. We were national champions in 2019 for 12s and under. We weren’t just playing at it, we were doing really well.”
The club has taken up the council’s offer of training time at Todmorden Pool and has been hiring Rishworth Pool - but coach Lydia Thompson said their training opportunities have been effectively halved.
Some members are also struggling to get to Todmorden and their membership numbers have fallen significantly. All their beginners have left the club since Halifax Pool shut at its current site.
Mrs Thompson said: “Todmorden is a really long way away for quite a lot of our swimmers and quite a few don’t come any more.
“There’s the possibility we would have to close the club - that would be the worst case scenario.”
Kathleen Priestley’s daughter Lily is 10 and has been a member of Halifax Synchro Club for the last two years. She lives in Brighouse and is finding it challenging to get her daughter to training in Todmorden on time.
“Lily absolutely loves it,” she said. “At the moment we’re telling her she can continue but it is very difficult.”
The club says a pool of at least 3m deep is needed for synchronised swimming, as well as diving, but the plans show a depth of 2.65m at most.
Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, said: “We’re planning a brand new, top-class swimming pool and leisure centre for Halifax to bring major benefits to the whole community.
"The wide range of state-of-the-art facilities will help people of all ages and abilities to be more active and healthier, and to connect with others at the heart of the town centre – including a modern gym, six-lane pool, sports hall/dance studio, wellness suite and adventure climb.
"This will also help to strengthen the town and boost the economy as part of Calderdale’s Inclusive Economic Recovery Plan, whilst tackling the climate emergency through the new building’s carbon-reducing features.
“We know how important diving and synchronised swimming facilities are to some people, and we considered the options for including these in the new building. However, these activities require the swimming pool to be a lot deeper, which would add significant cost to the council-funded project, so unfortunately it will not be possible to provide these facilities.
“We understand that some people are disappointed about this. The council is under extreme pressure to make budget savings across all services, especially due to the pandemic.
"A key condition for the new leisure centre is that it must be self-funding, so that the income generated is used to repay the amount which has to be borrowed for the construction.
"Deepening the swimming pool would add costs to the build which could not be repaid from the income that the centre will generate.
“We have been in regular contact with Halifax Synchronised Swimming Club and have offered them alternative sessions at our pools in Todmorden, Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse, as well as discounted rates.
"We are keen to support local clubs and are always happy to talk to them about their options.”