Frustration as Saffron Walden swimming pool stays shut

PUBLISHED: 09:39 27 July 2020

The swimming pool in Saffron Walden is closed until at least September. Picture: Getty Images

The swimming pool in Saffron Walden is closed until at least September. Picture: Getty Images


The leisure centre in Saffron Walden is to reopen today as coronavirus measures ease, but the indoor swimming pool is closed until September or longer, sparking community woes.

1Life runs the Lord Butler Leisure Centre in Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow Leisure Centre on behalf of Uttlesford District Council. The Mountfitchet Romeera Leisure Centre in Stansted, which they also run, is due to reopen on Monday, August 10 but does not have a pool.

A 1Life spokeswoman said: “We will not be opening our swimming pools at this stage as there is currently a lack of clear guidance from Swim England. We look forward to re-opening our pools as soon as we have clearer guidance.”

On their website, 1Life has told customers the pools will not reopen until September “at the earliest” and they are establishing safe ways of working and managing the wet environment within changing rooms.

The spokeswoman said the phased reopening will include changes to opening hours and delays opening activities such as instructor-led group exercise classes. But she said rumours there were making redundancies were untrue. “Our team members are currently furloughed and have been since lockdown commenced, with a number of our team starting to return this week as we prepare for a phased re-opening.”

“The remaining employees will remain on furlough until we have an increased operational requirement to re-engage them within the sites, this will be dependent on customers returning to the centres.

“1Life are in the process of consulting with staff to vary certain contract terms which will allow greater flexibility to amend work patterns should the need arise in this uncertain time. Our team members are hugely valued and we look forward to welcoming them back as soon as possible along with our members.”

Steve Haynes, chairman of Saffron Seals, said the pool remaining closed was disappointing.

“The swimmers at Saffron Seals are extremely keen to return to swimming at the earliest possible date.

“We are therefore very disappointed that despite clear guidance from Swim England and offers of help from ourselves 1Life don’t feel they can open the Lord Butler pool.

“Hearing that pools in neighbouring areas are opening makes this even harder to understand.

“However, we accept that safety must come first and hope to be able to work with 1Life and Swim England to help resolve the matters that concern 1Life.

“Unfortunately they have not shared these with us so all we can do is try and ensure everyone keeps talking.

“Swimming is a sport that enables our whole community - young and old - to maintain physical and mental fitness in a time when this is key and we just hope the pool can be opened safely as soon as possible.”

Swim England said the news that Uttlesford pools remain closed is “disappointing”.

A spokesperson said: “On June 15, we published our Returning To The Pools guidance, which was produced following consultation with a number of key stakeholders and partners, including Sport England and Public Health England.

“It contains robust recommendations for operators, casual swimmers, lane swimming, family-fun sessions, club activity, teachers and those attending swimming lessons.

“It is a living, breathing document and is regularly updated as the latest scientific advice and Government guidelines change. It covers all aspects of aquatic activity and gives clarity for the sector to confidently and safely reopen.

“Pools across the country have been using the guidance as they look to reopen their facilities from this weekend and we will happily address any concerns the Lord Butler Fitness and Leisure Centre and the Great Dunmow Leisure Centre have so its members can return to the water as soon as possible.”

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