Tue, 28 March 2023

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A National Facilities Strategy for Swimming


Swimming remains one of the nation’s most popular physical activities with over 15% of adults and 50% of young people taking part on a regular basis. Its significance is reflected in a report by the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport ('Testing the Waters: the Sport of Swimming', 2002) and in the Government’s response to that report.

Swimming pools are, however, some of the most complex and expensive leisure facilities to build, operate and maintain; and there is a need for extensive investment in the refurbishment/replacement of existing pools and for the building of new swimming pools. Sport England, through its Grant Funding, and in partnership with other funding sources, can help satisfy some of this need.

The UK is a poor relation compared to other countries in regard to the provision of indoor 50m pools, with a current total of just 22 such pools. Yet it is in 50m pools that the Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic events take place.

This national total of 22 is almost matched by the cities of Paris and Berlin, which have 19 and 18 pools respectively. In comparison, London presently has two.
There is a big difference between training regularly in a 25m pool and training in a 50m pool. Prior to the success of Rebecca Adlington - who won two gold medals in Beijing and is able to do some of her training in a 50m pool – our last three swimming gold medallists David Wilkie, Duncan Goodhew and Adrian Moorhouse were all able to train in 50m pools, although Wilkie and Goodhew had to go to America to achieve this. The ASA and British Swimming have been working to increase the number of 50m pools and there are a number of schemes presently under construction or being considered by local authorities and universities.


The ASA, together with partners such as Sport England, seek to achieve the development of a strategic network of accessible, cost efficient, well designed and managed pools to cater for demand across swimming’s various disciplines. This provision of pools needs to be:

  • Widely available to the community throughout the year and not restrictive through exclusive membership or pricing policies.
  • Sited in locations convenient for users and easily accessible to the whole community.
  • Well designed and constructed to a high standard of materials, plant and equipment, which meet appropriate manufacturing and operating standards.
  • Designed to allow for effective programming that caters for a wide range of user groups, and wherever possible, across all swimming disciplines.
  • Sustainable; being responsive to environmental issues in terms of their use of energy and non-sustainable resources, the control of pollution and physical location.
  • Cost efficient in design to allow the facilities to be managed efficiently with sustainable operating costs.
  • Thoughtful in design and, with pro-active management, able to meet the requirements of people with a disability and those whose culture has special requirements.

The pool requirements of the disciplines which make up swimming vary considerably from the shallow water required for teaching, to the 5m depth which is the requirement for a 10m diving platform. The ASA would like to see a network of pools which will allow for the teaching and development of skills through to performance in each discipline.


The objectives of the National Facilities Strategy which is presently being updated will be delivered:

  • Nationally and regionally through the ASA and Sport England working with local authorities, universities and other partners to develop the locations identified for national and regional training and competition facilities.
  • Locally through the ASA working with local authorities, swimming clubs, schools and other partners to produce and implement local swimming development plans.
  • Through potential project developers working with the ASA and Sport England to develop viable applications for submission to the Sport England Lottery Fund.

The role of the ASA

The ASA will:

  • Provide advice and guidance, in general and on specific schemes, on all aspects of swimming pool development.
  • Provide advice and guidance on appropriate schemes prior to submission to Sport England for grant applications.
  • Act as facilitators identifying and bringing together potential partners to enable the development of schemes.
  • Evaluate facility proposals to ensure they meet the ASA’s strategic objectives and the Sport England grant funding requirements.
  • Constantly review the progress made in delivering the objectives of the plan.

British Gas, who sponsor British Swimming, will help the ASA with its facility work by offering advice to pools on energy efficiency and helping pool providers to drive down their costs. British Gas will also help the ASA improve the swimming experience.

The support of the ASA is a key element of Sport England Funding appraisal process. Organisations considering refurbishing their existing facilities or developing a new pool should contact the ASA’s Facilities Section at an early stage for general advice, guidance and the detailed requirements of the various disciplines by calling 01509 618700.

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