Investment encourages residents to take plunge for a fitter life
Residents in Northumberland are being encouraged to jump in and test the water at their local swimming pool following a major investment by Sport England.
Sport England has chosen Northumberland as one of 12 places across the country for a pilot project that aims to encourage more people to use their local swimming pool. And, it has awarded Active Northumberland £230,000 to help address the drop off in adult swimming and increase participation in the sport.
Four of Active Northumberland’s centres at Ashington, Blyth, Hexham and Ponteland have been selected to pilot the new Swim Local scheme although it is anticipated that other Active Northumberland centres may also benefit from the scheme once the learnings of the pilot interventions are fully understood.
Each pilot centre will see a share of the funding, with a portion going towards further improvements to the customer experience for swimmers, additional classes, swimming support and new marketing campaigns to increase awareness of the county’s top quality facilities.
To encourage local people to take a fresh look at their local pool, and to encourage particular groups into the pool, the pilot centres will soon be providing free ‘come and try it’ weekends. They will also offer a ‘Swim Card’ over the duration of the pilot scheme to encourage people to come and give their local pool a try. Those who register for the card will receive a range of benefits including receiving their first swim for free as well as incentives for repeated use of the pool.
There will also be important changes introduced in and around the poolside and changing areas to improve the customer experience. For example new equipment, such as poolside towel hooks and small storage areas for items such as spectacles.
Another important development has been the appointment of Mark Seymour as the new Head of Swimming for Active Northumberland. Mark will use his wealth of experience to work with local communities and existing customers to deliver an improved adult and family swimming offer which addresses some of the barriers preventing people from using their local pool.
To support its successful funding bid Active Northumberland carried out surveys and focus groups to obtain feedback around local swimming experiences. The results showed that while 75% of residents were aware of the benefits of swimming and wanted to swim more, a much smaller proportion actually ventured into their local pool.
Mark said: “ We surveyed hundreds of residents across the county to get their views on swimming and the barriers they may face in taking part in the activity. The team at Active Northumberland will be working hard to make swimming more accessible and appealing and encourage more people to take the plunge and feel the benefits of swimming.”
Speaking about the new funding, Northumberland County Councillor Cath Homer, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure said:
“ We want to encourage more people to swim more regularly by promoting its many health and social benefits and improving swimming facilities and programmes. The funding will help enormously with this work by enabling us to test new ways of delivering swimming which are based on a better understanding of customer needs and expectations. We are really looking forward to seeing the project develop.”
Sport England wants everyone to be able to get active, no matter their age, background or level of ability. Participation rates for swimming have declined over the last few years and the Swim Local Pilots are one of the many ways Sport England is able test what solutions work best to rectify the decline.
Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England’s Director of insight said:
“ At Sport England we want everyone to enjoy the benefits that exercise brings, and hope people in Northumberland will take advantage of the exciting new swimming opportunities in the area.”
To find out more about any activities taking place at your local leisure centre, visit www.activenorthumberland.org.uk or ring 01670 542222.