Thursday 23rd April 2009
MORE than 36,000 people living in Wigan and Leigh are now swimming for free.
Wigan became one of the first authorities in the country to launch Free Swimming For All on April 1st.
Latest figures show residents are signing up to the scheme in their droves with 36,383 people now using the borough’s pools.
More than 15,000 under 16s and almost 5,000 Over 60s had retained their membership since the introduction of free swimming for these age groups since they were launched in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Now more than 16,000 new members have signed up for a Lifestyle card which allows anyone, of any age, to swim for free. While the number of people swimming aged between 17 and 59 has doubled, since this time last year, to 10,000.
Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust manage the borough’s public pools on behalf of Wigan Council.
Rodney Hill, chief executive of WLCT said:
“We’re thrilled so many people are signing up to swim for free.
“Getting the borough of Wigan active and improving lives is the key aim Wigan Borough Partnership and free swimming is certainly doing just that.”
The initiative is being funded by the government and a partnership between Wigan Council, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust and NHS Ashton, Leigh and Wigan.
The aim is simple – to get Wigan more active, healthier and having fun!
Leader of Wigan Council Lord Smith said:
“We’re delighted so many people are choosing to swim for free.
“The health benefits of swimming are well documented and we hope that by removing the financial barrier more people will live healthier happier lives as a result.
“With the 2012 Olympics round the corner there’s no better time or incentive to take the plunge and get active.”
In 2005 Wigan became the first borough in England to offer free swimming to children up to the age of 17. It was such a success that a year later the offer was extended to include the over 60s. The results saw a 60 per cent increase in young people taking to the water and a 20 per cent increase in older people using the borough’s pools.
Alan Stephenson, Chairman of NHS Ashton, Leigh and Wigan said:
“These figures are very pleasing. Getting more people active is a priority for us, and we would encourage everyone to join in this great opportunity.”