Shower row over school groups at pool

Gym users at a popular pool have been asked to shower in their trunks and costumes when schoolchildren are around, it was revealed today.

After using the equipment at the Torridge Pool in Northam, Devon, members have been "respectfully" asked to wear swimsuits in the showers, if pupils are present.

The pool said it acted after "concerns were raised" by schools, and made the request to protect both children and adults.

But grandfather-of-four Hugh Bone, who uses the centre, argued that the scheme appeared to prejudge people.

Mr Bone told the North Devon Journal: "This surely is ridiculous. Boys and men as well as girls and women have always changed in front of each other and this is part of the growing up experience. People should not believe that we are all perverts."

Some 13 primary and junior schools use the pool and have been in consultation with the pool as part of the Bideford Learning Community.

While schools swim at agreed times, members of the public could still be using the changing rooms alongside the pupils after a session.

General manager Bob Demott said there had never been any untoward incidents and stressed the measure was a safeguard for both children and adults.

He said today: "The measures we have put in place are pro-active. The schools felt uncomfortable that there were naked people in the showers when children were in the changing rooms."

Times have been buffered so that pool users' shower times do not clash with those of pupils.

But gym users have been asked to cover up under the showers when youngsters are in view, Mr Demott said.

He added: "Some people do feel uncomfortable taking their clothes off when children are around. We have asked a minority of gym goers who are around at the same time that if they do change at that time, then they do not shower naked."

There are a number of private showers that can be used if people do feel strongly about being nude under the shower, he explained He continued: "People have different views. Some say they get undressed in front of their grandchildren, others think differently.

"Teachers are in a difficult position. We don't want false accusations against anyone. This is to protect the public as well as the children.

"We are trying to be reasonable about this. We wrote to all the gym members and very few came back and complained. The last thing we want to do is stop children swimming. There's a fundamental need for them to swim in this part of the world."