Senior Leeds councillor calls for greater Government investment in city's swimming pools

A senior councillor has called on the Government for greater investment in Leeds’ swimming pools and leisure centres after new figures show the city’s public pool space is below average for its population size.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 4:45 pm
Coun Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for public health and active lifestyles. Picture: Tony Johnson

According to research by JPIMedia, owners of the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds has the equivalent of 843 square metres of public pool space per 100,000 people in the city - below the England average of 890 square metres.

By comparison, Harrogate was found to have 1,066 square metres of public pool space, yet Wakefield had just 626 square metres.

The Yorkshire region overall, with its 118 public pools, was found to have 867 square metres per 100,000 people - just half that provided in the South-East.

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It comes on the back of significant achievements for the city’s swimmers and divers at the Tokyo Olympics where Matty Lee took home the gold in synchronised diving, having trained at the John Charles Centre for Sport, and Jonny Brownlee won gold in the mixed triathlon.

Coun Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for public health and active lifestyles, said the council had seen over £2bn cuts from central Government since 2010.

“We need the government to make a greater investment in our swimming pools and leisure facilities, especially as we aim to build back fairer and reduce health inequalities after the pandemic.”

Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, raised the issue of the north-south divide in response to the figures.

“There is Government funding and lottery funding and what we do find in many areas outside of elite sport, a disproportionate amount of that goes to the South.”

He and Coun Arif both argued part of the Government’s levelling up agenda should be around better settlement for sports and leisure.

Coun Arif told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The Council has submitted a proposal to Government for a replacement for Fearnville Leisure Centre as part of the Levelling Up Fund initiative. We would welcome more opportunities like this to increase provision for residents across our city.”

She said there are no current plans for any further reductions in the city’s swimming provision and the council will always consider the impact of demographic change in the city and build that into the provision, adding: “But this does require funding to be found for new developments”.

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