Sports minister backs campaign to deliver 50-metre swimming pool in Kent
PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:04 16 August 2017
Clubs say promising talent is being “held back” by a lack of suitable facilities
The sports minister has thrown her weight behind a campaign working to deliver a 50-metre swimming pool in Kent.
Clubs and parents told Kent News last week they were having to make long journeys several times a week to London, Sussex, Essex or Surrey to allow budding swimmers to train in Olympic-sized facilities - unavailable anywhere in the county.
For some youngsters in the east of Kent, their nearest pool geographically is actually across the Channel in France, such is the distance they have to travel to access a 50m facility in the UK.
Consequently, campaigners feared the most promising talent was being “held back” by the lack of a suitable pool and were often placed at a disadvantage when competing against swimmers from other counties, who train over a 50m length regularly.
However, councils in Kent have been reluctant to rubber-stamp plans for a pool of that size over concerns it would be underused, and could cost millions of pounds at a time where local government funding is being slashed year-on-year.
Instead, club chiefs have argued the county’s universities should fund such facilities, suggesting they too would benefit by attracting a wider pool of students who enjoy swimming, but neither the University of Kent nor Canterbury Christ Church said they have any plans for a pool at this stage.
Sports minister Tracey Crouch, who is also MP for Chatham and Aylesford, was identified by campaigners as a potentially key figure in the fight for a larger facility, and this week she told Kent News the bid had her backing.
“I think every county should have a 50m pool and Kent is no exception,” she said.
“There are talented young swimmers who would clearly benefit from having an Olympic size pool nearby and I was pleased to be part of a meeting involving many partners to try and get this to happen.
“It is for them to make it all come together but they know they have my support.”