Swimming pools under threat due to spiralling energy costs
Senedd Members have been told that the energy costs of a swimming pool facing closure have trebled in the last few months.
At the end of 2022 the monthly energy bill to keep a small leisure centre in rural Gwynedd was £4,000 but it has now spiralled to £12,000.
As a result, the future of the swimming pool at Harlech and Ardudwy Leisure is a precarious one.
As things now stand the swimming pool will close at the end of March.
Councillor Gwynfor Owen, who represents Harlech and nearby Llanbedr on Gwynedd Council is not prepared to throw in the towel yet though.
“10 days ago it was due to shut within 24 hours but funding has come in from various sources since then.
“We hope that we’ll be able to carry on until Easter – by then we’ll know if recent grant applications have been successful.”
Speaking with Nation.Cymru this morning (22 March), Coun Owen said last night’s community council gathering in Harlech also doubled up as a public meeting to discuss the swimming pool.
“For the last five years the community council has given £20,000 a year towards the cost of keeping the pool open and it was decided to continue.
“Many people said last night that they’d be happy for that figure to be doubled or even trebled to keep the pool going.
“The main problem is the rise in energy costs from £4,000 a month towards the end of last year to nearly £12,000 a month now. Costs have gone way beyond what is reasonable.
The safety of local children is an important reason to keep the swimming pool open, explained Coun Owen:
“Harlech being a seaside town it’s very important to keep the swimming pool open so that local children are taught how to swim in order for them to stay safe when playing in the sea.”
However, it’s not just the swimming pool which is under threat – the small leisure centre also includes a climbing wall and café.
As regards energy efficiency, Coun Owen said: “It would be possible to use a cheaper form of energy but the downside is that we would need major funding to do that and the money is just not there.”
Gwynedd Council has already written off a £6,000 debt incurred by the leisure centre, “which has been a great help” said Coun Owen.
Harlech and the surrounding area is represented by Mabon ap Gwynfor MS for Dwyfor Meirionnydd.
Speaking in the Senedd yesterday (22 March) Mr ap Gwynfor of Plaid Cymru spoke of the “appalling increase” of energy costs.
The £12,000 a month it costs to keep Harlech and Ardudwy Leisure open, he said: “includes the UK Government energy support scheme,”
Mr ap Gwynfor added: “Investment in solar panels and new machinery would be a great help in the longer term, but they’re facing the crisis now.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said he’d heard about the issues that they face in Harlech but that, initially, it was a local issue.
Despite the “challenging financial situation” Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government has agreed “significant additional investment for local government for the next financial year.”
Jenny Rathbone MS for Cardiff Central told the Senedd that the sustainability of swimming pools “in the long term is only possible if they are using renewable energy to fire them up.”
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