Closure of three swimming pools branded 'travesty' by locals

Three pools in Livingston, Broxburn and Armadale were closed after West Lothian Leisure said it could no longer afford running costs.

Local residents in West Lothian have called the closure of popular swimming pools “a travesty.

Three Xcite pools in Livingston, Broxburn and Armadale were closed at the end of last month after West Lothian Leisure said it could no longer afford the running costs.

Despite a local campaign to keep them open, three Xcite pools in Broxburn, Livingston and Armadale were shut after what West Lothian Leisure described as multiple economic pressures including budget cuts and running costs.

The Howden Park Centre, run by the West Lothian Leisure Trust has been funded until March next year by the council and other options will be looked at to secure its long term future.

Alex Hastings is a resident in Armadale.

When he retired two years ago he found coming to his local swimming pool gave him much-needed social time as well as physical exercise.

He said: “It’s been a bit of a saviour for me – I was down here every day. 

“It’s just a shame – there are loads of people in the same position. It’s just a travesty that it’s closed, to be honest with you.”

Karyn Hamilton is a dance teacher at Howden Park Leisure Centre. 

She said many families with young children will miss out now that three pools including her local one in Broxburn are closed.

“They had a baby pool in there – there’s nowhere for that now,” she said.

“We’ve been told we can use Broxburn Academy but the swimming times are at eight in the morning so it’s really quite difficult to get there for that time.”

A spokesperson for West Lothian Council said: “We share the disappointment felt that pools in West Lothian have to close due to a lack of funding.

Karyn Hamilton ran dance classes at the Howden Park Centre

“West Lothian has considerably more public swimming pools compared to other areas in Scotland, and the change will mean that the number of public swimming pools in West Lothian will reduce from 19 to 16. West Lothian will therefore continue to have a much higher number of pools compared to the majority of areas within Scotland.

“West Lothian Leisure has confirmed that the three facilities made a significant monthly financial loss and they can no longer afford to operate them. If they did not close, WLL faces the risk of insolvency, which could mean the closure of all Xcite facilities, and many more swimming pools could close. 

“The three Xcite pools were expected to make a combined operating deficit of over £900,000 next year alone and require additional capital investment.

“The council has increased the availability and access to other pools in each of the towns directly affected, in an effort to help mitigate the closures. The council has arranged for public swimming sessions to be provided in the pools at Armadale Academy, Broxburn Academy and the James Young High.

“West Lothian Leisure has, however, confirmed that the Learn2Swim programme for children will not be reduced and will continue to be delivered.

“The council will actively engage with groups expressing an interest in Community Asset Transfer of these three facilities, including Scottish Swimming, should they wish to explore this avenue.”

Howden Park Centre is to remain in operation

They added: “The council has also written to Scottish Government ministers to highlight the decisions taken and to place on record the council’s view that the Scottish Government has failed communities in West Lothian through continued underfunding of local authorities, and by not providing funding to support the retention of swimming pools and other venues, despite having resources available which it could use for this.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We place great importance on swimming pools. They are crucial to wellbeing and helping our children and young people to be healthy and active.

“The financial package announced by the UK Government to support swimming pools in England has resulted in consequentials being added to the overall Scottish block.

“While it is for local authorities to manage their own budgets and to allocate the total financial resources available to them, including on leisure facilities, we will consider what additional support can be provided to swimming pools and the wider sport and leisure sector in Scotland.”

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