Leisure trust reduces swimming pool temperatures amid energy crisis

Swimming pool temperatures are being reduced by the trust running leisure services in Stafford Borough to help cut energy costs.

Stafford Leisure Centre
Stafford Leisure Centre

Building and pool heating temperatures are going down by one to two degrees at facilities run by Freedom Leisure after the trust saw its annual energy bill soar to more than £20m.

The not for profit trust runs leisure centres across the country and took on the management of Stafford Borough Council’s facilities in December 2017. It presented its annual report to the council at a meeting this month.

Operations director Jeremy Rowe said: “All over the country it is a very challenging time for leisure operators, particularly those with swimming pools, as high users of gas and electric. Energy is going to be a huge challenge for us as an organisation and for our partners cross the board moving forward.

“Our energy cost is going to go up from £7m to £22m over a full year. We are talking to national bodies such as UK Active and Swim England, all in partnership lobbying Government directly with our local MPs.

“We’re talking to our partners on what that means locally and it means different things to different contracts across our portfolio. There are discussions ongoing on a daily basis.

“We have done numerous mitigating measures – and actions in terms of the energy efficiency we have put into buildings over the last few years have really made an impact and softened that blow as much as we possibly can. We’re looking at pricing and all our aspects, including lowering the pool temperatures which has become an issue, in a sensible and appropriate manner to reflect the challenging times we face.”

Freedom Leisure has urged customers to help save energy at centres too. The trust’s website advised people to reduce their shower times, switch off lights if they are the last to leave a room and turn off air conditioning.

It was revealed last month that a swimming pool at Rye in East Sussex, which is run by Freedom Leisure, was to close for the time being due to energy costs. But pool facilities remain open in Stafford and Stone.

Committee member Councillor Ralph Cooke said: “In terms of your energy saving measures, such as lowering the temperature of the water, I have to say my wife is in full agreement with that. She says it’s much better if you’re doing proper swimming to have a slightly lower temperature rather than having it bathwater temperature, so she’s very happy the temperature has gone down a bit.

“Quite a number of local authorities are closing down leisure facilities and they can, because it’s not a statutory service and they don’t have to provide it. Of course there are political consequences for those who do shut it down so it’s a real dilemma.”

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