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Swimming Pool Scene COMMERCIAL MARKET REVIEW


Public Pool Provision:


• There are now 4,549 pools at 3,158 swimming sites in the UK, down from 3,173 last year.


• 34 new public and private swimming pool sites opened, down from 40 in 2016.


• 84 per cent of the UK population live within two miles of one of the 3,158 swimming pool sites.


• The UK’s largest leisure operator, by number of sites, is public leisure trust GLL, with 122 swimming centres.


• In the private sector, Nuffield Health are the largest operator with 110 clubs with a swimming pool.


• Public pay and play fees have increased by 3 per cent over the last 12 months.


*Statistics from the 2017 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report


but these have not been spread evenly across the country so it may appear in some localities that there has been little or no investment but in other areas brand new facilities.”


Alyson goes on to explain that as more local authorities make the decision to outsource their leisure provision there has been a shift in pool operating models. By taking the lead on programming, operators are now able to maximise the potential of the water space available, in order to provide a range of aquatic activities to offset the costs of pool operation. “We understand that it can appear that there is a need for more water space but this isn’t a straightforward situation. We certainly see that, in some areas, swimming clubs and learn to swim schemes struggle to access sufficient water space at pools, but at other times these same pools have sessions with poor usage.” She adds: “It’s difficult to please all users all of the time as pools are required to provide a varied programme that might not necessarily be fully utilised.” In January 2017 Freedom Leisure opened the brand new £10


million Perdiswell Leisure Centre in Worcester, which features a 25m swimming pool. Since then, the Learn to Swim programme


at the centre has grown by 136 per cent and casual swimming participation has increased by 70 percent.


Alyson adds: “Funding is certainly more difficult to secure and tends to be more specifically targeted. We currently have funding for work in East Sussex around inclusive aquatic activities and staff training to support work with those with additional needs.”


BUDGET CUTS


The broader austerity agenda is one trend that can influence the operation of public pools negatively. In some cases, Local Authorities can no longer afford to subsidise the cost of public pools which places a financial pressure on the council or operators who enter into agreements to take over the costs.


“The biggest challenge comes from the running costs, and, in


particular, the costs of staffing and utilities. This can be extremely expensive and if there’s not sufficient revenue, funding issues can place pressure on the running of pools,” comments Tim Mills, Director of Business Development at Fusion Lifestyle. “There’s also a question of capital funding. Customers rightfully expect high quality pools and this means that there is a fairly constant demand to refresh and refurbish existing facilities,” he adds. “There are quite a few positive examples of where capital funding has been available and new builds have successfully opened pools, or existing sites have restored or redeveloped facilities. There are opportunities for people to gain access to capital funding should they be able to demonstrate long term, sustainable solutions.”


WATER SPACE


Fusion Lifestyle works with 22 partners across 90 locations in the UK. The organisation currently manages Brockwell Lido in London and is also the operational partner of the Saltdean Lido CIC, who have managed the recent restoration of the iconic pool on the South coast. “We’re aware that there has been a net loss of swimming pools across the UK over the last year, but we still think that there is generally a broadly balanced supply of public swimming pools, which is in-line with demand,” says Tim. Chris Rinder, Sales Director at Parkwood Leisure agrees: “Whilst we appear to have enough water space to accommodate demand,


ABOVE: The biggest challenges facing facility owners and providers are footfall and running costs. Pic: Parkwood Leisure. Swimming Pool Scene COMMERCIAL MARKET REVIEW 39


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