Brits brace for cold winter as 200 pools set to cut hours

CEO reveals energy cost crisis facing Swimming Pools

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One of Britain’s largest swimming pool providers says it has been forced to reduce opening hours this winter due to spiralling energy costs in another sign of the impact of the cost of living crisis. Better Leisure, who operate 268 centres across the UK, said that the amount it pays for gas and electricity has more than trebled since 2019.

According to the firm, energy costs now make up 25 percent of the total running costs of each of its sites.

In September, the chain announced that it had reduced the temperature of its pools by 1C in an attempt to reduce energy costs.

It has now announced that it will cut the opening hours at more than 200 of its pools.

The changes will run from December to Easter and will vary for each centre and will be “designed to minimise disruption and to avoid changes for schools and swimming lessons”, according to Mark Sesnan, CEO of parent company Greenwich Leisure (GLL).

In an email, Mr Sesnan explained that the timetable changes would be enacted early in the morning or late in the evening when the centres were at their quietest and energy demand was at its peak.

He said: “In practice, some centres will open an hour later or close one hour earlier on some days.

“This will enable us to turn off lighting, plant and equipment at the time of maximum energy use, when it is coldest and darkest.

“This is also when we are least busy.”

Better Leisure’s pools, which includes the former Olympic venue the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford, are among the cheapest in the country with membership costing around £25 a month.

Earlier this month, Swim England warned that more than 100 pools are under threat of closure or a reduction in service in the next six months.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive said it would be an “absolute tragedy” if more pools were forced to close or limit their services.

She said: “Pools and leisure centres are vital parts of the community, improving the health and wellbeing of people of all ages.

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“They help reduce pressure on the NHS and social care system, saving more than £350m pounds a year – as well as being a place where people of all ages can learn a skill that could one day save their life.”

A Government spokesman said that state support through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme would alleviate the issue to some extent.

He said: “We know many leisure centres and swimming pools are contending with major increases in running costs, which is why we have introduced the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

“It will mean they pay wholesale energy costs, well below half of expected prices this winter.”

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