Senior swimmers upset and angry over 'discriminatory' timetable change at Ribble Valley pool
Senior Ribble Valley people have been marginalised by a timetable change at a Clitheroe swimming pool, according to a group of over 60s.
Ribble Valley Borough Council replaced three hour-long weekly sessions for seniors at Ribblesdale Pool last June with social swimming for people aged 17 and over.
But retired Clitheroe woman, Colette Ellis-Dears (65) said more than half of over 60s have stopped using the pool because they fear fast swimmers could knock and injure them.
Colette said: "We now feel too vulnerable and would be in a mess if someone accidentally kicked us. The council has angered a huge demographic. Those swims were a joy but now they're a nightmare."
Colette left her job as a mental health social worker when she became unwell at age 61. She suffers from chronic back, hip and knee pain, and was diagnosed with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), which causes extreme tiredness, in 2003.
"I am in constant pain except whilst swimming - and psychologically it gives me a boost," she added.
"I couldn't do anything before the sessions but now I swim nine miles a week. I've even swam the full length of Coniston Water.
"It's been an amazing journey but I'm starting to hate swimming.
"People also make friends here, so losing the social side has hit them hard," Colette added.
"These things are really close to my heart. It's just so unjust."
Alexander Hitchen (71) began swimming twice a week following two heart operations.
He said: "I have to go because of my health but you're playing dodgems."
Pool user Joe Turnbull (74) said the council should encourage older people to exercise to ease pressure on health services.
He added: "It was obvious people would not be sharing the pool with aspiring Olympic swimmers.
"It has definitely been a retrograde step in the well-being of an older generation."
Coun. Maureen Fenton said the timetable change was experimental, and Mark Beveridge (the council's head of cultural and leisure services) said in an email to Colette that the aim is to encourage more people, especially beginners, to use the pool.
A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “We opened up the social swimming sessions at Ribblesdale Pool following requests from other pool users and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have received no complaints regarding fast swimmers using the social swimming sessions.”
But Colette said seniors have complained to lifeguards, pool staff and duty managers, as well as council members Mr Beveridge and John Heap (director of community services). They have also sought help from Coun. Allan Knox and MP Nigel Evans.
Mr Heap and Mr Beveridge denied claims the decision discriminated against the elderly in emails to Colette.
Mr Beveridge said the council had battled to keep the pool open, despite Government cuts, and offers more leisurely swimming time than some Lancashire towns.