Our hope for a National Open Water Swimming Centre. By SwimTrek founder Simon Murie
I have been a resident either in or near Brighton, UK for the last 10 years. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a city on the coast around an hour’s train ride south of London. Whenever there is a heatwave in Britain, it’s generally shots of beachgoers flooding to Brighton beach that make the front pages of the national media.
However, even in the height of summer, you rarely see many of these people in the sea. The feeling seems to be that the water is too cold for swimming. Add to this the fact that the city has only 44 per cent swimming pool provision relative to the suggested government requirement for a city this size (as outlined in Sport England’s Facilities Planning Model) and all in all, not many people are getting the opportunity to swim.
Because of this idea, SwimTrek along with a small group of other local businesses have been working on constructing a publicly accessible swimming pool, Sea Lanes (sealanesbrighton.co.uk) on a currently dilapidated site on Brighton seafront. Due to its proximity to the sea the aim is not just to increase pool provision but also to act as a stepping stone to getting more people to swim in the sea. Making the pool open air and heated will help make the step from indoor pool to sea easier for a lot of people.
In an age of austerity, there seem to be few if any funds available from local government and from the outset, we took the decision to fund the pool privately, by an enabling development of retail, health and fitness, food court and office space which would help fund the pool’s construction and running costs.
Now that planning permission has been granted for Sea Lanes, it’s time for us to start getting it built. The current funding plan is for a 25 metre swimming pool but we are working on the viability of installing a 50 metre pool in the long run. Our thinking is that the bigger the pool the greater the attraction for prospective open water swimmers.
And so to the grand plan and where we want to be in a few years’ time. Many sports around the UK have their own centres of excellence. For example, both Loughborough and Bath host the two National Swimming Centres focused on pool performance. If we want to get open water swimming to be at the forefront of sport in the UK, then I feel it needs its own centre of excellence. Our outdoor heated pool with direct access to the sea could be an excellent facility to achieve this.
Similar albeit higher end lido projects have proved successful in both Bristol and Reading, so once the Sea Lanes concept is proven as an enabling development that pays for the cost of a public pool, then surely this model could work elsewhere around the country? Maybe there will be a Sea Lanes pool coming near you soon!