Swimming Stars Back Lonsdale Pool Plans
Past and present swimming champions have pledged their support for a local charity’s bid to find a site to build a new pool and leisure facility.
Lonsdale Swimming & Sports Trust Ltd is searching for a 1.5 acre alternative site in the west of Derby to build a new 25 metre, eight lane pool to replace the ageing Lonsdale Pool on Varsity Grange – the former Mickleover campus of the University of Derby. They also plan to install a 200-seat viewing area, gym and fitness studio and potentially a second training pool as part of the £4 million investment.
The Trust’s plans have been backed by Paralympian Ellie Simmonds, rising swimming star Adam Peaty and former swimming champion and City of Derby coach Melanie Marshall who all say that a new Lonsdale Pool will be a vital resource to ‘Keep Derby Swimming’.
Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Simmonds OBE is a four-time Paralympic Champion and currently has ten world records to her name. Before she shot to fame at the age of 13 – winning her first Paralympic medal at the 2008 Beijing Games – she spent many hours training at Lonsdale Pool with the Dwarf Sports Association.
Her mum Val said: “The Association used to do regional training at Lonsdale at least once a month so we regularly did the trip down the A38 to Derby from our home in the West Midlands when Eleanor was nine and just starting on the competitive circuit.
“Her time at Lonsdale was very important as she had a lot of one to one training on specific skills and this set her on the road to serious competition.
“Swimming is something that the whole family can enjoy together. We started Eleanor on swimming lessons when she was very young and she took to it straight away.
We were amazed how good she was from an early age and the sport certainly took over our lives as a family.”
Ellie, who is now 20-years-old, is busy training for the World Championships in Glasgow in July before starting on the selection process for Rio 2016.
She continued: “I have fond memories of training at Lonsdale Pool and I really hope that the Trust are able to find a site for a new pool. This will give clubs the pool time they need and will hopefully encourage more young people into the sport.
“Swimming is one of the biggest disability sports in the UK and there are so many up and coming young swimmers who are working hard to break into the national teams.
“With the right facilities we can bring home even more medals from international championships, the Olympics and Paralympics in future years.”
Her views were echoed by Adam Peaty who has also trained at Lonsdale Pool.
The City of Derby ace already has a clutch of international medals under his belt and made history by finishing the 100m breaststroke in under one minute at the Flanders Speedo Cub in Antwerp earlier this year.
“I trained at Lonsdale Pool for nearly three years when I was younger and, without that support and those facilities, I would not be at the stage I am now.
“There are a lot of clubs in Derby and the surrounding area and we need good quality pools to ensure everyone gets the training that they need.
“It is a particularly good idea that Lonsdale are planning to have a fitness suite as part of the new building as training out of the pool is just as important.”
Former international champion swimmer Mel Marshall now coaches City of Derby swimming club.
She said: “We have used Lonsdale Pool on many occasions over the years and it is one of the reasons why we have so many good swimming coming out of Derby and Derbyshire.
“Our club has also done fund raising and specialist coaching sessions there, supported by the likes of Rebecca Adlington and Ross Davenport.
“There is a great deal of work being done to get young people into swimming so it is imperative that we have the standard of facilities to match as there is a huge demand for pool time from the clubs in the area.
“Having access to good pool facilities is not just important for competitive and elite swimmers. Everyone and particularly children benefit from swimming in so many ways from teaching them self-discipline to improving health and fitness.”
Doug Whitlam is President of Derby Phoenix Club, which trains at Lonsdale Pool, President of Derbyshire Amateur Swimming Association and a trustee at Lonsdale.
He said: “We have had so many swimming stars training and coming to special events at Lonsdale over the years. I am delighted that they are getting behind us in our bid to find a new site.
“Swimming is one of the fastest growing competitive sports in the country and Derby has really punched above its weight in terms of producing world-class swimmers over the years.
“A new Lonsdale Pool will be a god-send for competitive swimming in the city and county. It will also provide a fantastic new community resource – whether that is for young children learning to swim or for older people who rely on non weight bearing exercise to improve their health.
“We need to find a suitable 1.5 acre site in this area so that we can forge ahead with our plans to invest £4 million in the new facilities and are working with Derby City Council and landowners to bring this to fruition.”
Lonsdale Swimming & Sports Trust has run the Lonsdale Pool in Mickleover since 2007 following the site and surrounding land being sold by the University of Derby for housing.
Since then, the pool has been the base for a number of local schools and club training sessions, as a venue for swimming lessons for about 600 children a week and for members of the public.
However, the ageing structure is becoming too expensive to run and needs replacing.
The pool’s extensive running costs are currently supported with £100,000 a year by the developers building Varsity Grange on the former university site under a Section 106 agreement.
This agreement will finish in 2025 at which point, the £1 million received by then will have been completely used up keeping the current pool open rather than being an important lever to attract grant funding and finance. The pool will therefore be closed with a community facility lost forever.