A COMMUNITY body which promotes healthier lives in West Devon has emphasised the value of swimming as pools face an uncertain future.

Active Devon, which is funded by Sport England, says swimming is one of the most easily accessible activities to support an active and healthy life.

This backing comes as the industry body, Community Leisure UK (CLUK), representing public pools such as Okehampton and Tavistock’s Parklands and Meadowlands pools, lobbies the government to continue subsidising energy bills — due to end in April. CLUK fears up to half of public pools could close if they have to pay their, now, much higher energy bils.

Hannah Worth, Director, Active Devon, said: ‘Devon has one of the highest proportions of people who swim regularly nationally. Residents are twice as likely to regularly swim in an outdoor pool, such as Chagford and Mortenhampsted, compared to the rest of England.

‘Swimming provides an inclusive, accessible activity to improve health and wellbeing for all, including children, disabled and older people who, otherwise, may be inactive. But, since the pandemic, fewer children leaving primary school can swim 25 metres .’

Active Devon has, for the past six months, been supporting a consortium of community-run, single-site, outdoor pools in response to risk of closure and de-commissioning of community-run pools due to the energy crisis.

Hannah said: ‘We have submitted a joint application for funding to provide free swimming lessons and pool access at across open air pools this summer. This is for low income families and people struggling due to the cost of living. The benefits include your physical and mental health and knowing you are helping these pools survive.’

Tavistock international athlete Sam Lake has also stressed how vital the pools are for the community.