March 11 2014 Latest news:
by Lizzie Dearden, Senior reporter
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Children wanting to learn how to swim are being stopped from even signing up to the 1,500-strong waiting list at Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre.
Unable to cope with “unprecedented demand”, managers of the only public swimming pool in Redbridge have simply closed the lists.
Even those already in the queue can expect to wait between 12 and 18 months for a place, according to Vision Redbridge, which runs the council’s leisure services.
At least 1,577 children and 249 adults are waiting for lessons.
John Sharrock, chairman of Redbridge Swimmers, said the problem has been going on for at least three years.
“It’s a disgrace really but there’s no alternative,” he added.
“If we haven’t got the facilities we are going to get that knock-on effect so the only answer is to provide more.”
Concerned parents reported overcrowding and long waits in Fullwell Cross in 2012 as the Olympic Games shone a spotlight on sports provision.
Paul Hewitt, of Gants Hill, resorted to teaching his six-year-old daughter how to swim himself when no lesson places were available.
He said: “Swimming is an important skill for children because it may save their life one day.”
The staggering figures come amid a heated debate between the Conservative and Labour groups over plans for a temporary swimming pool and leisure complex in Seven Kings.
Cllr Wes Streeting, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Ilford North, said residents had told him they have resorted to taking their children to neighbouring boroughs Waltham Forest and Barking and Dagenham.
He added: “A temporary pool in south Ilford will not address this crisis.
“We need a permanent pool for residents in Ilford to free up capacity at Fullwell Cross [in High Street, Barkingside] for residents living in Ilford North.”
The Labour group has pledged to build a permanent pool if it gains control of the council in the upcoming elections, but the Conservatives claim their proposals are the fastest solution.
Residents and campaigners have been pushing for new leisure facilities since the former Ilford Baths closed in 2008.
The building was demolished last year and a primary school is being built on the site.
Research by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) shows that less than a third of Redbridge children can swim a length by the time they finish primary school – one of the worst figures in the country.
Vision did not respond to our request for a comment.