Hundreds of people in the Colne Valley are supporting a campaign to keep open a community swimming pool in Slaithwaite.

Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), a charitable trust which runs 12 sports and leisure centres across Kirklees, wants to close the pool at Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite to save money.

The spiralling cost of energy has forced KAL to announce the temporary closure of the pool and also Deighton Sports Arena and Batley Baths & Recreation Centre. The gym and ‘dry’ facilities at Colne Valley will remain open.

The temporary closures would start at close of business on Friday December 16 and run until the end of March next year.

The community in and around Slaithwaite is angry that the decision appears to have been taken without proper consultation and with just two weeks’ notice.

In just a few days 1,500 people have signed a petition and a public meeting is to be held on Tuesday December 13 (7pm) at The Civic in Slaithwaite.

Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney has described the decision to close the pool as “appalling” and has asked KAL’s chief executive to think again.

“I am deeply disappointed,” he said. “I want to know what other alternatives were looked at, who was consulted and was the Kirklees Council Cabinet informed beforehand?”

The pool at Colne Valley Leisure Centre

Clr Lesley Warner (Ind, Colne Valley), who has organised the public meeting, said the community and staff had been treated with “contempt.”

She told Huddersfield Hub: “What has completely shocked everybody is that all this kicked off two weeks before Christmas when it’s already such a challenging time.

“I understand that Kirklees Council has subsidised KAL during the pandemic but there must have been conversations about funding.

“There was no consultation with ward councillors or the local community. If we had known we could have started a ‘use it or lose it’ campaign but we haven’t had that chance.”

Clr Warner, who lives in Slaithwaite and regularly used the pool for health and wellbeing, said KAL had said that the decision on Slaithwaite was taken due to a lack of footfall but hadn’t provided any evidence. “I know Jason McCartney has asked for this too,” she said.

Clr Warner said if enough notice had been given the community could have investigated ways to keep it open by looking at such things as a new pricing structures, solar power or crowdfunding.

“We will be very lucky to stop the closure on Friday,” she added. “And my view is that once it has closed it won’t re-open again despite what they say.

“This is a community asset and everybody has got their stories from when it was first set up in the 1960s.”

Colne Valley Leisure Centre

Huddersfield Hub asked Slaithwaite people to tell us why Colne Valley Leisure Centre’s swimming pool is so important. Here’s what they told us.

Maria Varley-Tawfik says: “Colne Valley Swimming Pool was built by funds raised and gifted by the local community over 50 years ago. It is a vital asset to our local community providing swimming facilities to people of all ages, whom use it for many reasons.

“As the NHS is at breaking point with obesity-related diseases and mental health problems are at an all-time high the very things that promote our health and wellbeing are being closed.

“Children across the surrounding area have learnt to swim there through school or parents investing time and money.

“I hate to calculate the hours I sat at the side of the pool whilst my two sons developed the valuable life skill considering the Colne Valley is awash with water, from the River Colne, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which runs just metres away and numerous brooks and reservoirs – which Yorkshire Water consistency raise awareness are dangerous places to swim!

“I don’t envy those mums who are now having to fight for limited places in limited number of pools – trying to juggle time, location, use of cars etc.

“The convenience of the pool is paramount, whilst this also boosts the local community businesses. How many of those visiting the pool then meet friends for lunch, parents grab a ‘chippy tea’ or a busy working professional might do a shop in Aldi?

“I was diagnosed with MS in my late 20s which exacerbated as I reached 50 leaving me with extreme fatigue and limited manual dexterity in my right arm and shoulder.

“After some physiotherapy I realised how exercise assisted my mobility. I had always enjoyed swimming and began to wonder if this might be an option. Five years on I use the swimming pool up to four times a week for AquaFit classes or the public swims.

“All exercise releases endorphins with evidence that swimming, in particular, can reduce stress and benefit social, physical and mental health.

“Just being in the pool makes it easier to move, with the water reducing weight on joints for up to 90%.

“In just a few days nearly 1,500 have signed a petition and 906 have joined the Save our Colne Valley Swimming Pool Facebook page.

“We are not happy with the decision, albeit a temporary closure, as we feel it will not re-open in the Spring.

“We are shocked and angry at the short notice with no community, stakeholder or user consultation on how the issue might be resolved.

“There’s utter shortsightedness by KAL on how this impacts on so many across so many demographics. And it’s not just the local area, as there’s a lady from over near Hebden Bridge who attends all AquaFit classes as there’s only one class per week at Sowerby Bridge.

“There are plenty of questions relating to the Government’s pledge to level up. What guarantees from KAL are in place that it will re-open in March and how Kirklees plan spend their reserve funds? I’m sure these questions will be asked at our meeting.

Helen Schofield says: “I feel really disappointed that Slaithwaite Pool could close.

“Since retiring two years ago, I was told by my GP that I needed to exercise, swimming was my chosen exercise. And I joined KAL with Slaithwaite being my nearest pool and easily accessible.

“I am not a confident driver to go elsewhere, plus parking charges at other venues.

“I have many happy memories of Slaithwaite pool, due to attending there as a pupil of Colne Valley High School, where I learnt to swim.

“Please help to keep Slaithwaite Pool open!”

Jess Sims says: “I started swimming at the beginning of this year after an almost 25-year break of regular swims.

“I’d always loved being in water so decided to pick up a healthy fitness hobby after a pretty lazy period of lockdowns.

“Soon I was doing 8am lane swims four times a week. The physical health aspects were expected but the mental health benefits were a surprise.

“If I couldn’t swim one day I really noticed a difference in my focus and my mood and couldn’t wait to get back in the water and in my zone.

“During this year of swimming I’ve seen first hand the benefits of having this local pool in the village – the kids learning to swim, families having fun together at the Splash and Play (including my own toddler and family), those who are pregnant or with an injury who just want to spend time in water doing light exercise, the fast swimmers pushing themselves hard in the fast lane, and the elderly taking their AquaFit classes…for some that being the only socialisation of their week.

“The benefits of having a local and accessible pool, and the community of the people I’ve met, will really be affected by this closure.

“I’ve heard the community and friendship in the changing rooms after my lane swim and before the AquaFit session and they all look out for each other and seem to value that socialisation time, especially after the difficult isolation of lockdowns.

“I work in the centre of town but work from home most days and the accessible location of the Colne Valley Pool fits in with my busy commitments of full-time work and having a toddler.

“I can go for a lunch break swim in the village or 8am before I get back to my home office and log on.

“Adding on the extra commute times to get to the Huddersfield Pool would make it unviable for me to find the time to continue my swimming and the next three months (and beyond) will be very mentally difficult because of this closure.

“It’s been heart-warming to see how much this pool means to others and not just myself and I really hope it’s possible to find a way to avoid the closure.”

Jane Cook says: “I find it hard to reconcile the need for financial savings even in these hard times with the hugely negative impact of the pool closure on the health and well-being of the many who use the pool facilities.

“Our personal circumstances are that we have two children with disabilities that benefit from using the smaller, less crowded facilities in their local community where staff are familiar with them and embracing of their needs

“Our adult son would be virtually excluded from using an alternative venue as travelling there independently would be an issue, and our teenage daughter would find it hard to make that adjustment due to her autism.

“I am afraid too that the impact on alternative pools would be huge and session opportunities would be reduced?

“As much as I disagree with the principle, would a differential pricing structure be an option to help reduce the financial strain on running costs?

“It’s imperative to retain the discounted prices for those that cannot afford, but there will be folk I am sure who could afford and would voluntarily pay an increased fee to swim?”

Sarah Gledhill says: “I started the petition to save the pool because my son is currently swimming there three times a week.

“I also learnt to swim there and have been a regular swimmer on and off over the years. I feel it will be such a great loss to our community if it closes.

“My father and his siblings were competitive swimmers and albeit I haven’t competed myself, the importance of being able to swim was always a value they passed onto us and likewise I share that same value with my son.

“My son is eight years old and has been going to the pool from 12 weeks old. As a parent I want to know that when he’s old enough to go out alone, living where we live, surrounded by a canal, a river and numerous reservoirs that he can swim to a competent level.

“Not only that, my son is showing great potential in his swimming and who knows where this may lead. Where are our future Olympians going to come from, if we have no pools to learn to swim in?!

“The pool is a widely used community pool with swimming lessons in demand, lessons such as AquaFit and lane swims fully booked and also the numerous schools that use it for lessons.

“I could understand if the pool wasn’t used but it very much is and is very much at the heart of the community. Young and old, people of mixed abilities and generation after generation have learnt and continue to swim there.

“Children will have to travel to Huddersfield if this pool closes. This means longer on school buses, more curriculum missed when they have missed so much due to Covid, and others simply not willing to travel the distance.

“I for one will no longer be continuing my son’s lessons, as I am not prepared to travel all the way to Huddersfield several nights a week in rush hour traffic, to have issues parking for a 30-minute lesson.

“As a child, I spent hours in that pool. Not only learning to swim but for pleasure. We are in the grips of a mental health crisis in this country and yet the very things that keep our physical and mental health well are being closed.

“More needs to be done to prevent mental health decline and it is these very things that help us stay well.

“Swimming is not just a hobby, it’s a life skill to people and a sport that people of all ages and abilities can do. This is why I feel so passionate about this cause.”

Learning to swim is a vital life skill with so much tempting water around for young people. Pic by: SEAN DOYLE

Claire Gledhill says: “I am heartbroken that the pool is going to temporarily close (and in my opinion this is the start of a permanent closure).

“I grew up living very close by, my sister and I learned to swim in that pool as tiny babies at the then ‘Water Babies’ mother and baby swims, then onto swimming lessons that our parents paid for and with school.

“Then throughout our childhood and teenage years we were there a couple of times a week minimum for fun or length swims. I am a keen swimmer even now and credit that pool with fostering the skills and love of swimming in me.

“My eight-year-old nephew is now following this same path with his swimming lessons and recently started in the training academy. To think he will lose the skills and pleasure we have taken from that pool is very upsetting for me.

“Growing up in the Colne Valley it is also very important that children learn to swim, you don’t have to go far to come across canals, river or reservoirs and we hear tragic stories every summer of children and young people drowning.

“Learning to swim means parents can relax a little when their children go out and furthermore the pool provides activities that stop them getting involved in trouble or mixing with the wrong crowd.

“I really feel KAL should look at alternative funding streams for the pool and leisure centre facilities.

“Growing up in the 80s and 90s my sister and I regularly went to the weekly Saturday morning roller disco and my mum worked in the bar there where they hosted the ‘Owls’ old people’s activities and weddings and functions in the sports hall.

“I am not close enough to know what other activities or facilities there are there anymore but I feel a ‘think outside the box’ approach is needed. Not only would it drive revenue but also provide much needed activities, especially for young people.

“The pool has been open since the late 60s/early 70s, was started with fundraising and has weathered earlier economic storms, we cannot let a well-used and good condition facility die.

“I haven’t lived in the Colne Valley for 20 years and have lived in Spain for the last 13 years so it’s a sign how much the pool means when I still feel passionately about it and I always enjoy going back and seeing my nephew swim there. It brings back lots of fond memories and is part of the community.

“I am so passionate about it that if we manage to save it, I am prepared to pay for a monthly membership for the coming year that I won’t even be able to use to support its funding.”

Sign the petition HERE