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Perth leisure swimming crisis laid bare amid plans to axe pool

Take our survey and have your say on what you would like to see in a new Perth swimming pool and leisure facility.

Perth Leisure Pool.
Perth Leisure Pool. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Perth has the lowest number of pool hours available for leisure swimmers in all cities across Tayside, Fife and Stirling.

An investigation by The Courier into swimming availability in the Fair City shows that Perth only had 50.5 hours of availability timetabled for the week of February 5-11.

During that week, Dundee had the most availability with 133.75 hours of leisure swimming timetabled at the Olympia, Lochee, St Paul’s and Grove Swim and Sports Centre.

Inverness also had more availability with 79.5 hours scheduled.

Not enough hours at Perth Leisure Pool

The main issue with leisure swimming availability in Perth is the lack of timetabled hours at the city’s only public pool.

The hours set aside at the main pools across the other large towns and cities of Tayside, Fife, Stirling and Inverness all allow for more leisure swimming time.

Perth and Kinross Council are currently putting together a plan for a new leisure centre that would replace and combine Perth Leisure Pool, Dewars Centre and Bell’s Sports Centre.

The first proposal, which was rejected by councillors, did not include a leisure pool or an ice-rink.

There are fears among those who use the pool that a reduction in water – like having no leisure pool – would only further lessen the slots available to leisure swimmers and families.

Campaign for all sports

The Courier has launched a campaign to ensure that both a leisure pool and ice-rink are included in any new centre alongside indoor bowls.

Have your say on what you would like to see in the new facility by taking our survey below.

There are wider implications for Perth and Kinross if Perth Leisure Pool closes with no provision for leisure water at a new facility.

Overall the local authority currently boasts the third most access to leisure water across Tayside, Fife and Stirlingshire due to its centres at Loch Leven, Blairgowrie, Strathearn and Breadalbane in addition to Perth.

However, without Perth Leisure Pool the council area would again drop to last on this list.

It is also worth noting that the nearest of those other facilitates, and the only one within a 30-minute drive of Perth Leisure Pool, is Live Active Loch Leven.

The Loch Leven facility timetables for less leisure water than the Perth pool currently provides with 39.25 hours put aside for recreational swimming at the Kinross pool.

A self-fulfilling prophecy of decline

One of the reasons provided by Perth and Kinross Council for having less pool availability in a new facility was based on a downwards UK-trend of people swimming.

Those that use Perth pool have argued that such a trend does not ring true for them.

Dr Andrew Jenkin, lecturer in sport management at the University of Stirling, has warned that such trends can become their own cause and effect.

Dr Andrew Jenkin.

He told The Courier: “It’s possible for a decrease in the availability of swimming facilities to contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy of declining interest in swimming and consequently fewer swimmers in the UK.

“When swimming facilities start disappearing, it’s not just about losing a place to swim; it affects the entire swimming community.

“With fewer places to swim due to closures or maintenance issues, it becomes harder for individuals to engage in swimming as a recreational activity or sport.”

Better facilities means better health

Dr Jenkin also believes that good facilities act as a meeting place and a lack of access to such centres can have health implications for residents as it limits their opportunities to exercise.

“These facilities also serve as social hubs, where people gather not only to swim but also to socialise and participate in events,” said Dr Jenkin.

“So, a decrease in swimming facilities not only limits access to swimming but also leads to a decline in community engagement around the sport, feeding further reduced interest.”

He added: “These facilities provide essential learning environments for basic swimming skills, exposure to the sport, and crucial training grounds for aspiring swimmers.

“Additionally, they foster a supportive community, which is vital for long-term development in swimming.”