A report setting out future options for the Isle of Man’s three regional swimming pools will be made public on Monday when it is added to the Tynwald Register of Business.
Tynwald requested that a costed long-term strategic plan to develop regional sports hubs was undertaken by the Department of Education, Sport and Culture (DESC) and Department of Infrastructure in January 2023.
The detailed report sets out a number of costed options for the Southern, Northern and Western facilities, which are all locally managed by their joint local authority Swimming Pool Board, which unlike the National Sports Centre pools are managed by the DESC.
The regional pools are funded through local rates that total around £92,000 and an annual £1.75m Government subvention, the majority of which is used to cover operating costs and for the Northern and Western pool buildings, loan repayments. In recent years, Treasury has also provided further financial help with increased energy costs.
However, budget forecasts for 2024/25 indicate an additional £602k will be required and no scenario in the report would allow the DESC to increase the subvention to meet this figure, without impacting on other provision within the Department.
The recommendation is that Tynwald Members agree to the closure of the Southern Pool, with the Western and Northern facilities continuing to be run by their respective Boards, which is independent to the DESC.
Due to a number of factors, including its age, condition and loan free status, Tynwald will be asked to support the recommendation to close the Southern pool. The move would save the DESC around £434k a year and allow it to support the remaining pools within budget.
Julie Edge MHK, Minister for Education, Sport and Culture, said:
‘This is a very difficult situation. There isn’t enough money to maintain the status quo in this extremely challenging financial climate. Whilst I understand the impact on the South of the Island, we are fortunate to have alternative facilities across the Island that can be accessed.
‘We have and will continue to explore all available options to ensure children and the wider community in the South will still be able to attend lessons, clubs and enjoy swimming with its proven benefits to health and wellbeing, but accept this is not ideal.
‘In February 2023, my Department presented a strategic vision for the Castle Rushen site to Tynwald Members, and we will continue to look to the future implementation of this vision for the people of the South of the Island.’
The Department has met with the Southern Pool Board this week and shared the recommendation as their staff could be impacted. A steering group comprising of representatives from all regional pool Boards has also been informed.
Map caption: Vision of the future implementation of Castle Rushen High School.