Horncastle residents have thrown their weight behind calls to save a town swimming club from the threat of closure.
The News revealed last week that the Otters Swimming Club was locked in a fight for survival as part of a dispute with Magna Vitae.
The club has been described as a ‘town institution’ after serving Horncastle for over six decades, during which time it has taught hundreds of children to swim.
It is based at the town’s swimming pool.
But Magna Vitae, a charitable trust which now runs leisure facilities previously controlled by East Lindsey District Council, wants to introduce a raft of changes.
It says the club must be run on a more profitable and commercial basis and is keen to increase the price of lessons and encourage a more competitive environment.
Talks have taken place between the club and Magna Vitae – without any agreement.
Now, club president Fiona Martin – a town and district councillor – has admitted members fear for the future.
She said she would not have voted to hand control of leisure facilities to Magna Vitae had she known about the ‘potential consequences’.
Now, residents are calling for Magna Vitae to back down and agree a compromise.
Parent Annette Storr said: “It seems the only ones here thinking of the children are the Otters Club.
“Most of us have had children who learned to swim with them.
“Now, there’s someone (Magna Vitae) who wants to put profit over children and wants to take over all the great and hard work the teachers have put in.
“Have a heart. Otters do pay you a large amount to use the pool – don’t let greed take away part of our Horncastle heritage.”
Susan Johnson said her children and grandchildren had attended Otters sessions down the years.
She said: “It is a wonderful club, run by volunteers who do a first-class job for young people in this town. The atmosphere is brilliant and now it could all be taken away.
“Shame on Magna Vitae and shame on East Lindsey for doing nothing to protect the club.”
Ian Johnson said he planned to send his two children to the club.
He explained: “My wife and I recently moved to Horncastle and we’ve heard nothing but positive things about the Otters from other parents.
“I want my sons to learn to swim in a safe and friendly environment.
“Why should this type of thing always be about money?
“We all pay council tax and the council should be taking action to help organisations like the Otters, who put so much back into the community.”
Amanda Pearson said she had learned to swim at the club as a youngster and would be ‘devastated’ if it closed after so many years.
She added: “The Otters and Horncastle go together.
“It is a successful, popular and well-run club. Why put all that at risk?“
David Rushton said he could not understand why the club needed to be more competitive – a point raised by Coun Martin.
He said: “My understanding is the pool at Horncastle is not wide enough or long enough to hold competitions.
“If children want competitive swimming, they would have to go to Louth or Lincoln.
“Perhaps that’s what Magna Vitae want.”
Val Holroyd said that while she understood the financial pressure on Magna Vitae, the future of the club was important for the town.
She said: “I have friends whose children started at the Otters and then progressed to a bigger club if they wanted to and if they were of a good enough standard.
“Surely what is important here is teaching as many children as possible to swim at as young an age as possible.”
Town Mayor Coun Angela Birchall said her two daughters had started swimming at The Otters and then joined a bigger club, before representing their county.
She backed calls for the club to be allowed to remain at the town swimming pool.
The News understands talks are still taking place between club officials and Magna Vitae.
According to reliable sources, there is a chance that a compromise agreement could be reached.
The club has said it is prepared to consider raising charges for lessons – and increase the amount the club pays to Magna Vitae to rent the pool on an annual basis.