Further to my comments about the opening hours and availability of the 'training pool' at Wavelengths, centre manager Clare Motton was kind enough to reply via the noticeboard in the foyer.
I contacted her to ask for a copy of her response, and have reproduced it here.
•Swimming pool availability:
The pool programme is designed to cater for the specific needs of different sections of the community as well as those that wish to participate in general swimming. There are four swimming pools within Lewisham and all pool programmes are balanced to ensure that public swimming is available within the borough at any one time.
Due to the diverse population within Deptford, the centre aims to provide sessions, which allow all residents to use the facility. Some sessions are particularly targeted at specific user groups, for example, ‘women only’. Without such sessions being specifically programmed, it is known that numerous customers would not be able to participate in swimming and therefore not benefit in the centre’s facilities.
We try to state the names of the clubs that hire the pool, within any publicity material. Further to feedback, programme names will be adjusted in our next re-print of the programme.
• Early opening:
The London Borough of Lewisham and Parkwood Leisure are currently in discussions as to the possibility of opening the centre from 6.30am on weekdays. We hope to have a decision in the near future.
• What is casual swimming?
Casual swimming is a session that allows any member of the public to swim without the restriction of lanes. This enables both non-swimmers and children to use the 25-metre pool. This session was created at the request of our customers and has proven very popular.
• Club hire:
At present club hire only uses 13% of the total pool programme, providing 87% for a range of alternative swimming pursuits. Club hire is invaluable for providing development of our swimmers who could potentially develop into the swimmers of the future.
Naturally I was delighted to hear about the ongoing discussions with the council about opening the pool much earlier on weekdays. I know for a fact that Parkwood Leisure is very keen on the idea, acknowledging that it is guaranteed to boost the centre's membership numbers. Quite what the sticking points are and why the council is dragging its feet has never been fully explained to me. If anyone can shed light on the matter, please feel free to email me or leave a comment. Clare advised me that although discussions are still continuing, 'we are extremely hopeful of a positive outcome'.
If this could be achieved, it would also go a long way to improving availability for swimmers who live locally but work in London. I'm never going to change my mind about casual swimming sessions and I still think that there are too many exclusive sessions, but making more swimming hours available would be a huge boost.
As far as availability goes, there's very little merit in the response: 'There are four swimming pools within Lewisham and all pool programmes are balanced to ensure that public swimming is available within the borough at any one time'. Deptford is not in the centre of the borough, or even equidistant from several pools - it is stuck out in the north of the borough a long way from most of Lewisham council's facilities. While some people may have the choice between Wavelengths and Ladywell, there is a huge swathe of the catchment area who are closer to Greenwich or Southwark pools than they are to Parkwood's other centres. Offering us public swimming sessions that are miles away is pointless.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the council pulls its finger out of wherever it is stuck and gets the ball rolling for earlier hours.