Funding cuts leave bathers floundering

 

Manningham Pool cuts a forlorn figure. Built during the late Victorian bath-building boom, its marble floor and sauna once made it the proud centerpiece of the community – a place where mill workers could exercise and wash in suitably grand surroundings.

But last summer, despite the emergence of a vocal campaign group, it was closed; its windows were sealed with steel shutters and its deep end was drained for the last time.

The decision was taken by Bradford Council as it faced making £100m of cuts after the Government's comprehensive spending review slashed local authority budgets. Each swim was being subsidised to the tune of £4.65, the council argued.

Last month, the Grade II-listed building was sold to a developer for £86,000. Now locals fear it will become yet another fabric shop or restaurant. Bruce Barnes, 64, used to swim there twice a week. "The community misses it," he said. "This is a multicultural area and it was a small, friendly pool where people could swim together."

Since Manningham baths shut, he has been only a couple of times to the nearest pool at Shipley because he is put off by the 45-minute journey.

Despite the proximity of the Olympics, local councils across England and Wales have continued to close swimming pools in the past year, with the private sector increasingly stepping in to fill the void.

While suitable for leisure use, many of these new pools are not big enough or accessible enough to support mass participation, let alone elite swimming.

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