Twelve years ago, Fenham Swimming Pool in Newcastle-upon-Tyne closed its doors for what should have been the final time.
Operated at the time by Newcastle City Council, the pool had been under threat of closure for six years and was eventually closed in July 2003, after the local authority was forced to cut £8 million from its budget.
After more than 65 years of service, the closure of the pool was a devastating blow for the community and the schools that used it. Not willing to admit defeat, the local residents formed a board of trustees and registered Fenham Pool as a charity. With the support of nearby schools and leisure facilities, the pool reopened on July 28th 2005. Funding was achieved via grants and wards, which was put towards getting the pool back to full working order, after having remained dormant for two years. A decade on, the pool now has a new lease of life and recently celebrated its 10th birthday.
Following a £400,000 overhaul and now with 70,000 swimmers a year using the baths each year, the team behind Fenham Swimming Project haven’t looked back.
Lynne Richardson was pool manager in 2005 and has been involved in the venture ever since. “The trustees admit it has been a difficult transition from being a Council-run operation to a community-owned one, but say the pain has been worth it,” says Lynne.
“Because it’s run as a not-for-profit we do always wonder where the grants and support will come from. The council still owns the building but we rent it, so despite them on one hand closing us down, they have given us a lot of support.”
Based in the west end of Newcastle, the pool serves residents within a 30 mile radius. The facilities at Fenham Pool include a five lane, 23m pool with a separate sauna and steam room. The water treatment, which is supplied by HTH, is carried out by the in-house team, made up of 12 paid staff members and six volunteers.
“We have a variety of users from Swim NE who deliver the main bulk of our swimming lessons including Masters and Swim fit,” says Lynne. “The local schools dominate a large portion of our programme which helps us enormously with capital income. As well as swimming sessions, we also offer activities that are aimed at ladies only, men only or adults only, along with inflatable sessions and pool parties. We also run regular lifeguard courses.”