- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
May 20 2011
HARLECH POOL campaigner Joyce Watson AM has written to Wales’ new Sports Minister urging him to include the town’s popular pool in the Welsh Government’s Free Swimming Initiative.
Under the initiative, the Government funds free swimming in Wales for children aged 16 and under during school holidays and at weekends, and people aged 60 and over outside school holidays – although, some local authorities have extended the scheme to provide 60+ Free Swimming all year around.
The scheme is not available in Harlech, however, because the pool is no longer maintained by the local authority.
In 2010, following a massive community effort, Harlech and Ardudwy Leisure took over the troubled pool. The community company was set up to save the pool when Gwynedd council said it would have to close to save money.
After helping to secure the pool’s rescue, Joyce lobbied the previous Minister to extend the coverage of the Free Swimming Initiative to pools like Harlech, but despite apparent support for her plan, community pools still cannot qualify for the scheme.
The Labour Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales is now urging the new Minister to look afresh at bringing free swimming to Harlech town.
Here is a copy of the letter sent to Huw Lewis AM:
I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage. I know that you will bring the same imagination, assiduousness and intelligence that you applied to your role in the previous administration of Wales.
Now we have our new Labour government, I believe it is important for us to look afresh at decisions made by the previous One Wales administration and to set new priorities.
You may already be aware of my on-going involvement with the campaign to protect the swimming pool in Harlech. Gwynedd Council earmarked the facility for closure, but the Friends of Harlech Pool campaign group submitted a rescue plan to adopt the pool as a community asset, which was successful, and the pool was saved.
Last year the project received around £800,000 through Welsh Assembly Government and Big Lottery funding, which has enabled the commencement of much-needed renovation and refurbishment work.
The reason I am writing is to draw your attention to the fact that as a community-run pool as opposed to a local authority-run pool, Harlech does not qualify for the Assembly Government’s free swimming initiative. When I raised this seeming iniquity with the previous Minister he said:
‘If the pool is taken out of local authority control and becomes a community asset, it will have to be done with some sort of agreement with the local authority. I cannot tell you whether the free swimming scheme would then apply, but I will certainly take this matter up with the sports council and write to you. I would very much hope—and I believe it would be right—that such a provision would be extended to such a community asset if it was transferred out of local authority control’. (NAfW Record of Proceedings, Wednesday, 25 November 2009)
Despite the Minister’s apparent support for extending the scheme to facilities like Harlech, when I visited the pool last month, I was informed that they were still not able to provide free swimming.
I would be grateful if you would look at this matter, with a view to enabling community-run pools to apply for free swimming status.
Good luck in your new post, and I look forward to working closely with you on this and other matters, for the benefit of Mid and West Wales.
Joyce Watson AM/AC