Fears for future of Horncastle Otters Swimming Club

Horncastle Swimming Pool which is at the centre of the dispute EMN-151214-111432001
Horncastle Swimming Pool which is at the centre of the dispute EMN-151214-111432001

There are fears for the future of a popular Horncastle club which has taught generations of children to swim over the last six decades.

It has emerged Horncastle Otters Swimming Club is at the centre of an on-going dispute with Magna Vitae - a charitable trust set up to run leisure facilities for East Lindsey District Council.

The swimming club is based at Horncastle swimming pool which comes under the control of Magna Vitae.

The Otters pay £16,000-a-year to hire the pool but Magna Vitae wants to make changes to the way the club operates.

Town and district councillor Fiona Martin, who is president of the club, says Magna Vitae wants to create a more competitive environment, featuring their own commercially based ‘Learn to Swim’ programme.

Speaking at a Town Council meeting last week, Coun Martin said she had genuine fears for the future of the club - if the changes went ahead.

She stressed the success of the Otters was based on proven formula for teaching and pointed out the Horncastle pool is not even suitable for competitive swimming.

Coun Martin said: “The club has been a large part of Horncastle for a very long time. It has taught generations to swim. Now, there is a very real danger it could disappear.

“I appreciate Magna Vitae has financial considerations but there must be a better way forward than the current situation.”

Coun Martin doubted whether Otters members would sign up for the proposed new formant but claimed there was the demand to meet the requirements of the club and Magna Vitae’s own training programme.

Coun Martin was backed by John Fearon who, in a statement on behalf of the club, questioned the ‘motives and tactics’ of Magna Vitae.

He said the Otters had offered to consider an increase in hire payments - and an increase in the price of lessons but claimed Magna Vitae had refused to discuss ‘alternative financial options’

He added club volunteers were prepared to ‘work in collaboration’ with Magna Vitae staff and consider any options.

He warned the ‘radical’ proposals by Magna Vitae would lead to the closure of the club - and the ‘serious deterioration’ of the finances of the pool.”

Several Otters members contacted the News to express their concerns, including Lesley Welbourne who praised the volunteer teachers as ‘an inspiration’ to youngsters and described the club as a ‘perfect example of the community pulling together’.

In a statement, Magna Vitae managing director Mark Humphreys said the trust was reviewing ‘operational arrangements’ in a bid to boost income and stave off cuts to venues and activities.

He said: “One of our areas of review is the arrangement at Horncastle Pool with Horncastle Otters. Please be assured that we are very aware of, value and recognise the great work of the club and we very much want to preserve that.

“We do, however, need to find a more financially sustainable long-term solution as the current arrangements cannot be afforded. Funds received from pool hire are very minimal compared to the potential funding that can be secured from the direct operation of swimming lessons, for example.

“Magna Vitae are therefore working closely with the club to develop a new arrangement that secures a single, jointly delivered programme of lessons. It is very much our wish to do this in partnership and we are in active dialogue to develop such a solution. We urge the swimming club to work with us to secure the changes that are necessary and jointly safeguard the club for many more years to come.”