The Closure of Swimming Pools Across the UK

Impact on Communities and Children's Swimming Lessons

5/21/20245 min read

red and white floater
red and white floater

The Closure of Swimming

Pools Across the UK

Impact on Communities and Children's Swimming Lessons

Swimming pools across the UK have been a cornerstone of local communities, providing not just a place for exercise and leisure, but also crucial venues for children's swimming lessons. However, the alarming rate at which these facilities are closing down has sparked concern among community members, health professionals, and educators. This article explores the reasons behind the closures, the far-reaching effects on communities and children's swimming lessons, and concludes with a hopeful perspective on the future.

The Scale of the Problem

Over the past decade, the UK has witnessed a significant decline in the number of public swimming pools. According to Swim England, nearly 1,800 pools could close by 2030 if current trends continue . This decline is attributed to a variety of factors including austerity measures, rising maintenance costs, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial Strains

One of the primary reasons for the closure of swimming pools is financial strain. Many local councils, which typically manage public pools, have faced budget cuts. These cuts, part of broader austerity measures implemented over the past decade, have forced councils to prioritize essential services, often at the expense of leisure facilities. The Local Government Association (LGA) reported that councils in England faced a funding gap of £3.1 billion in 2020 . This financial shortfall has made it increasingly difficult to maintain and upgrade aging pool infrastructure.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these financial challenges. Lockdowns and social distancing measures led to prolonged closures of swimming pools, resulting in significant revenue losses. A report by Community Leisure UK highlighted that public leisure facilities, including swimming pools, faced a combined loss of £800 million during the pandemic . Even after reopening, restrictions on the number of users and additional costs related to enhanced cleaning protocols have made it difficult for many pools to break even.

Effects on Communities

The closure of swimming pools has a profound impact on communities, particularly in terms of health, social cohesion, and local economies.

Health and Wellbeing

Swimming is a highly accessible form of exercise, suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. It offers a low-impact, full-body workout that can improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and mental wellbeing. The closure of pools restricts access to these health benefits, disproportionately affecting those who rely on swimming as their primary form of exercise.

Research by Swim England indicates that swimming can significantly reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes . Additionally, swimming has been shown to improve mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The loss of swimming facilities therefore poses a risk to the overall health of the community.

Social Cohesion

Swimming pools often serve as community hubs where people of all ages and backgrounds come together. They provide a space for social interaction, community events, and inclusive activities. The closure of these facilities can lead to a reduction in social cohesion and increased social isolation, particularly among the elderly and those with limited mobility who might find it harder to access alternative exercise venues.

Economic Impact

Swimming pools also contribute to the local economy by providing jobs and attracting visitors to the area. The closure of pools can result in job losses and reduced economic activity. Furthermore, local businesses that benefit from the foot traffic generated by pool users, such as cafes and sports shops, may also suffer financially.

Impact on Children's Swimming Lessons

One of the most concerning effects of swimming pool closures is the impact on children's swimming lessons. Learning to swim is a vital life skill that provides children with confidence in the water, promotes physical fitness, and can be lifesaving.

Safety Concerns

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death among children. The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) reports that drowning claims the lives of around 400 people in the UK each year, with a significant proportion being children . Swimming lessons are essential in equipping children with the skills to stay safe in and around water.

Physical and Mental Development

Swimming lessons also play a crucial role in children's physical and mental development. Swimming helps improve motor skills, coordination, and overall physical fitness. It also provides psychological benefits, such as increased self-esteem and reduced stress. The closure of pools limits children's access to these developmental benefits.

Inequality in Access

The closure of public pools disproportionately affects children from low-income families who may not have the means to access private facilities. This exacerbates existing inequalities in access to swimming education and physical activity. A survey by the Youth Sport Trust found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be able to swim by the age of 11 compared to their more affluent peers .

A Ray of Hope

Despite the challenges, there are reasons to be hopeful about the future of swimming pools in the UK. Various initiatives and community-driven efforts are being launched to address the issue and ensure that swimming remains accessible to all.

Government and Community Initiatives

Recognizing the importance of swimming pools, some local councils and community groups have stepped up efforts to save these facilities. In some cases, community-led campaigns have successfully raised funds to keep pools open. For example, in 2020, the community in Bramley, Leeds, managed to save their local pool from closure by forming a community trust and raising the necessary funds .

Moreover, the UK government has acknowledged the importance of leisure facilities and has introduced measures to support them. The £100 million National Leisure Recovery Fund, launched in 2020, aimed to support publicly owned leisure facilities affected by the pandemic .

Innovative Solutions

Innovation also plays a key role in addressing the issue. Some councils are exploring cost-effective and sustainable solutions, such as energy-efficient renovations and partnerships with private entities. For instance, in Harrogate, the local council has invested in a new energy-efficient swimming pool complex, which will reduce operating costs and environmental impact .

Encouraging Private Investment

There is also a growing interest in encouraging private investment in public leisure facilities. Public-private partnerships can provide the necessary funding and expertise to maintain and improve swimming pools. These partnerships can ensure that pools remain open and accessible to the community while also being financially sustainable.


The closure of swimming pools across the UK presents significant challenges, impacting community health, social cohesion, and children's swimming education. However, through community efforts, government support, and innovative solutions, there is hope for a brighter future. Ensuring that swimming remains accessible is not just about preserving a recreational facility—it's about safeguarding a vital resource that contributes to the health, wellbeing, and safety of the entire community.

By working together, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the benefits of swimming, fostering healthier, happier, and more connected communities.


1. Swim England. (2021). The Future of Swimming Pools. [Swim England Report](

2. Local Government Association. (2020). Local Government Finance. [LGA Report](

3. Community Leisure UK. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on Leisure Facilities. [Community Leisure UK Report](

4. Swim England. (2020). Health Benefits of Swimming. [Swim England Health Report](

5. Royal Life Saving Society UK. (2020). Drowning Prevention. [RLSS UK Report](

6. Youth Sport Trust. (2019). Physical Activity and Disadvantaged Youth. [Youth Sport Trust Survey](

7. Leeds Live. (2020). Bramley Baths Saved by Community Effort. [Leeds Live Article](

8. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. (2020). National Leisure Recovery Fund. [](

9. Harrogate Borough Council. (2021). New Energy-Efficient Swimming Pool. [Harrogate Council News](