Community swimming group speaks out about Europa Pools closure threat

A petition to save Birkenhead’s Europa Pools from the threat of closure has attracted more than 2,850 signatures since it was published online this week.

The future of Europa Pools and other council-operated venues and amenities was thrown into doubt because Wirral Council needs to plug a funding gap of £16m mostly due to extra expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and funding cuts from central government.

birkenhead.news spoke to Irene Harwood who is Club Secretary at Wirral Metro Swimming Club (WMSC) which uses Europa Pools for training and for hosting national competitions.

Irene told us, “WMSC is the performance element of swimming on the Wirral and we have been training at Europa Pools for over 18 years. Initially, it was a Council run scheme, enabling swimmers from Wirral and the surrounding areas to participate in an elite performance programme.”

“If Europa Pools closed our club would have no training base.”, she warned. “To achieve national level, swimmers need to be looking at training at least 18 hours a week.”

In addition to the WMSC petition, another was organised by Unison members. In a flyer that they were handing out at a petition signing in Grange Road on Saturday, it states, “Europa Pools has a fitness suite, competition swimming pool and is Wirral’s only ‘fun’ pool with a wave machine. The centre is much loved and used by children and families in particular.

Wirral Unison – Save Europa Pools – David Jones & Warwick Roberts

“If the Council pass these proposals, Birkenhead will have no municipal leisure or swimming facilities”

Nathan Young, who is a member of WMSC, will be representing GB in the Deaf Olympics during December 2021. Nathan, who started the petition, said, “Without Europa Pools the future of every single member of WMSC hangs in the balance.  Over the years Wirral Council has provided opportunities for local school and club children to trial performance training, resulting in many reaching national and international stature. These children, their coaches, and families have worked so so hard and deserve the chance to continue on the pathway to achieving their ambition. They house a fully equipped gymnasium under Invigor8 membership.  They also have a sensory room serving local groups.”

Irene Harwood continued, “WMSC holds four galas a year attracting up to 200 swimmers a day from across the country and as far as  Ireland. Local Peninsular groups hold regular galas and support schools in the organisation of school galas. There are no other facilities in Wirral to host such events.”

WMSC has supported the development of young athletes such as Freya Anderson whos is now in the GB squad and Mathew Harding who holds several World records in disability swimming. Nathan Young holds British records and is ranked 5th in the world.

Irene finished off by saying, “Many other swimmers continue on to train with University squads all over the country and as far as the USA.  As an independent swimming club, we are fully self-funded with paid staff. So not only would swimmers lose their opportunity, but staff would also lose their jobs. When events are held at Europa we as a club feel we bring revenue to the area with visitors utilising local businesses.”

You can sign the online petition to save Europa Pools here.

Main image credit: www.birkenhead2020.com

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