Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Swimmers under the age of 16 and those aged 60 and over in Thanet can make a big splash at local pools, with a new offer, following the end of the national free swimming programme.

The coalition government announced in June that their funding for the free swimming programme for both age groups, would end on Saturday 31 July, as part of their plans to reduce their budget deficit. It had originally been funded until March 2011.

Figures show that, during the first year of the scheme, from March 2009 to March 2010, 42,659 free swims were taken up across the two age groups in Thanet.

Thanet Leisureforce, with support from Thanet District Council and the NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent, have now announced a new scheme for those aged 16 and under and 60 and over called Big Splash 2. Anyone in those age groups will be able to buy a Big Splash 2 card for £20. This will then entitle them to get free swims at both Hartsdown Leisure Centre in Margate and Ramsgate Swimming Centre until 31 March 2011. The offer is only available for people to take up until Tuesday 31 August 2010.

The Big Splash 2 scheme will be reviewed over the next six months to see how successful it is and whether any free swimming scheme can be continued from April 2011.

Cllr. Martin Wise, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said: “The free swimming programme has been a success here in Thanet, which is why Thanet Leisureforce and the council wanted to do something to continue the momentum that’s been built up over the last 18 months. Obviously, in the current climate, we can’t commit, at this stage, to anything past March 2011, the original date when the scheme was due to finish, without knowing how successful Big Splash 2 is. This new scheme gives people the option of continuing with the free swims they’ve enjoyed to date for a small outlay.”

Steve Davis, Managing Director of Thanet Leisureforce said: ”The Big Splash 1 scheme has been enormously popular in Thanet, achieving a much greater increase in participation in swimming than has been achieved in many other parts of the country. Our primary aim has to be to maintain this increase. The withdrawal of government funding has been disappointing, but we hope this interim scheme will allow many people to continue to swim regularly at a very low cost, whilst we review our options with the council on how to provide low cost/free swimming to the local community in future years during the current financial constraints.”

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