Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Council meeting set to discuss NLC pool issues

A special meeting of the Council is set to take place in the coming weeks to discuss the ongoing concerns surrounding swimming lessons and disabled concession prices at Newry’s new swimming pool.  The move comes after protesters took to the foyer of Downshire Civic Centre in Downpatrick during last Monday night’s Monthly Meeting of Council to demonstrate their opposition to a proposed £4.85 “lesson tax” on one-to-one swimming lessons in Downpatrick Swimming Pool.

The issue of huge waiting lists for swimming lessons at Newry Leisure Centre (NLC) as well as discrepancies over disabled concession prices at NLC were also discussed at Monday evening’s meeting.

Although a date has not been set for the full meeting of Council, it was agreed that presentations from parents of children waiting on swimming lessons at both NLC and Downpatrick Leisure Centre as well as from swimming instructors would be permitted.

Last week The Examiner revealed that the “Save Our Swim Schools” group were stepping up their campaign to have private swim schools Swimfit and Elsol reinstated at NLC after their licenses were revoked in February this year, resulting in the loss of 25 staff and a waiting list of 600 children for the new Council-run lessons at the new pool.  In letters to local media the group claimed the new programme and the council swimming teachers structure would “never meet the demand” for lessons and wrote to all councillors calling for a public meeting to discuss the issues that have dogged the new leisure centre, causing widespread concern, since it opened in April

Speaking to The Examiner about the agreement to hold a full meeting of Council to thrash out the pool issues, Jane Curran from Save Our Swim Schools confirmed that the campaign group did not know if they were to be included in the meeting.

She added that, having requested in April to present to the Active Health Committee, she received an email from Chief Executive of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Liam Hannaway just prior to the last Monday’s council meeting advising her that, after discussion with the AHC Committee Chair, Councillor Liz Kimmins, they saw “no merit in a presentation to the Council.”

Mrs Curran claims the NLC swimming lesson situation is “becoming chronic” with swim access for the general public “greatly restricted” by swimming lessons taking place.

“The pool’s capacity is reduced by the use of swim clubs and lessons are taking up quarter lanes meaning the public cannot swim full lengths,” she said.

The swim school campaigner went on to divulge that the group had received the full support of SDLP councillors and some Independent councillors but that a public meeting had not been agreed upon yet. In the meantime she said Save Our Swim Schools was working in partnership with Downpatrick swimming teachers and preparing presentations for the Council.