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Champion synchronised swimming team left without base to train after council closed their pool

·5-min read

Halifax Synchronised swimming club previously trained at the town's 50-year-old council-run pool but it was closed during the pandemic due to structural damage.

Calderdale council plan to build a new 2m deep pool costing £24mil in its leisure centre in the town, but the club claim it is not deep enough to train safely.

The previously pool was 3.8m deep.

The award-winning club has won national championships and boasts Great Britain synchronised swimming squad member Isobel Davies on its books.

But council chiefs claim the proposed new pool would accommodate over 98% of current users.

And they have refused to increase the depth of the pool as they say it would cost an estimated additional £2mil, but the club argues it has have not seen evidence of this.

Club founder and coach Charlotte Hughes, whose mum and children have both trained at the pool, said the club had grown in the last 20 years to more than 100 members.

However she fears the club will see membership dwindle if the club can't keep its base in the town.

Charlotte, 38, said: "The plans have been submitted to the planning department, they aren't very clear and don't show the depth, but it would appear it would be substantially less than two metres deep.

"For a synchro club to offer facilities to a national standard, we can't do that with a pool less than three metres deep. It's just not deep enough from a health and safety point of view.

"We won't be able to have as good a standard, we will lose members.

"It will take two to three years to build, but if we don't get the depth of pool I don't know how long the club will survive.

"We could keep it going as best we could if the girls knew they would have a pool at the end of it."

Charlotte formed the club when she was 18 and in recent years, they have scooped national and regional championships.

At the last face to face meeting in 2019, the club's 13-15 group won the national combo cup at the Olympic pool in London while its 13-15 group won silver.

Charlotte added: "When I was 18, I set the club up with just four member and it's gone from strength to strength.

"We currently have six teams, from 12 and under to adults. Our home was Halifax swimming pool, it was 12ft 6 deep.

"It is where I trained, its where my kids trained and where my mum trained. Three generations of my family have been involved in the pool.

"It closed in the pandemic in March last year and it hasn't opened back up since.

"We currently hire a private pool in Rishworth and the council have offered us use of another pool in Todmorden but that is an hour to and from Halifax.  

"It's a fantastic pool but it's too expensive and too far away."

Council bosses have submitted plans to build a new pool in its leisure centre in the town, which they say 'bring major benefits to the whole community'.

But the club say the council has prioritised spending budgets on facilities which haven't been requested  instead of supporting their award-winning club of young swimmers.

And Charlotte believes the council's ambition to be the 'fittest borough by 2024' is at odds with its decision to not cater for the club.

She added: "We have members from all different walks of life. Calderdale council want sport to be open for all and to be the fittest borough by 2024. This goes against that.

"There are more than 100 members affiliated with the club. The council are cutting their nose off to spite their face.

"The council say that we are two percent of their user base we believe it's more like ten percent when looking at the swimming hours which we will lose.

"We've gone from training four sessions a week to twice a week the girls have had a massive drop in their training hours we have lost 22,678 hours a year."

Cllr Jane Scullion of Calderdale council, said: "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.

"There isn't currently a diving club interested in using the facilities, but 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."

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