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Swimmers fear reduced opening hours at Ellon and Westhill pools could be ‘path to closure’

Aberdeenshire Council confirmed they are reviewing timetables at leisure facilities across the region.

Ellon swimming pool
The opening hours at the swimming pool in the Ellon Community Campus will reduce by 30% this summer. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Swimmers in Westhill and Ellon fear the reduction in opening hours at the pool could be the start of moves to close them permanently.

Over the summer, opening times at swimming facilities across the region will be significantly reduced.

The pool at Ellon Community Campus will cut its hours from 100 per week to 70 from July 10 – a decrease of 30%.

Meanwhile, regular users of the pool in Westhill have commented that keeping the doors closed on Sundays feels like the start of the “path to outright closure”.

Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed it is reviewing its timetabling and activities on offer at all its facilities.

The newly shared timetables are dated until August 20, coinciding with the end of the school summer holidays, but no information has been shared about future hours.

It has now been confirmed that public meetings will be held at Westhill Academy at 6.30pm and the Ellon Community Campus at 7pm on Thursday evening, with many planning to attend to share their views.

Pools are a ‘lifeline’

The swimming pool in Ellon is based at Ellon Community Campus. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

Janet Campbell visits the pool in Ellon every weekday and says it has been a “lifeline” for her since her husband died a few years ago.

The 72-year-old took to social media to share her concerns about the cuts and received dozens of replies from swimmers and parents who will be impacted by the changes.

“I moved to the area four years ago with my husband and the pool became a lifeline for me for me when I was widowed,” she said.

“It’s a place I can go to talk to friends which benefits my mental health and so many people of all ages use the pool to keep fit.

“Some people I know have injuries so they like to go swimming first thing in the morning to set them up for the day. Now, there are no 6am sessions and the earliest option on a Wednesday is 11am.

“There was no consultation with the public in regard to the cuts when there should have been.”

The former swimming teacher also shared the negative impact the cut hours will have on children during the school holidays, after years of missing out on swimming due to Covid.

She added: “Children have lost swimming skills, so this is the time needed to reignite their enthusiasm.”

‘Kids are suffering’

Westhill Swimming Pool
Westhill Swimming Pool will be closed on Sundays throughout the summer holidays. Image: Jim Irvine/DC Thomson.

Jill Leslie and her partner Megan Davidson use the pool in Westhill every week with their five children, aged between six and 12.

Three of the youngsters attend swimming lessons while the eldest two train with the swimming club for competitions.

The opening hours are to be reduced from 84 to 50 each week with closure on Sundays – one of the days the swimming club trains.

Ms Leslie said: “They’re going to lose a whole training session which will have an impact on their fitness level. This is their hobby, the one thing they really enjoy.

“When they’re not at school, they’re swimming. It’s frustrating that the kids have to suffer.”

Ms Davidson added: “The pool will effectively just be open on afternoons and evenings. We have school and work during the week so the times left aren’t a possibility anymore. The last session on a Saturday is 1pm, it is absurd.”

‘Meeting the need of all users’

Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed that it is carrying out a review of the hours across the region.

Children swimming in a pool.
Swimmers of all ages will be impacted by the reduced pool opening hours. Image: Shutterstock.

A Live Life Aberdeenshire spokesman said: “In addition to seeing changes in patterns of use post-Covid, the summer traditionally presents challenges for our operations.

“Recruitment, illness and staff holidays often necessitate cancellation of sessions and activities at short notice which causes disappointment and dissatisfaction among customers.

“Waiting lists across all our venues are also starting to grow and, with the launch of our new membership in August, we will require additional capacity at peak times.

“The summer programming will release our teams from operations to undertake further training to build the capacity required later in the year.”

The spokesman added that the timetable changes have been made to allow a “more efficient” service.

“We have also undertaken an in-depth review of our timetabling and activities and identified where facilities are busy to enable us to add additional sessions and, where we are quiet, to remove any poorly-attended sessions.

“These changes will support Live Life Aberdeenshire to deliver an efficient service and to offer a wide variety of activities which reflect the changes in demand and meet the needs of all service users.”