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Swimming club anger at reduced pool hours

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AFTER two years and £24,000 in travel expenses, Strule Dolphins’ excitement at finally coming home to a new pool at Omagh Leisure Complex turned to anger this week, after they claimed they are being denied the required swimming time to fully function as a club.

During a meeting two weeks ago Omagh District Council told  the club they would not receive the same full pool access as it had prior to the pool closure in June 2012.

At that time the Strule Dolphins had 3.25 hours of exclusive pool time.

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They have been told this will now be reduced to one hour, on a Friday morning at 6.30am.

The club had even requested an increase in exlusive pool time, by 15 minutes.

The reduction also means the club will now not have pool access on their traditional Tuesday nights.

The Strule Dolphins insist they are asking for the “bare minimum” to operate as a swimming club.

However, a council spokesperson stated, “The unanimous decision of Omagh District Council is that public access to the new swimming pool should be prioritised in the scheduling of bookings when the pool facility opens on July 1.”

During the course of Omagh’s  major pool refurbishment, up to 90 young members had to be ferried by bus to Strabane and Cookstown three nights a week, where they were given full pool access.

This cost £12,000 in each of the two years, with the club receiving a £4,500 subsidy from the council in the first year.

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The club has been told it will be given £500 to help cover the £12,000 bill of this past season, but they say they have yet to receive the money.

A club spokesperson said, “No loyalty has been shown to the Strule Dolphins Swimming Club by the elected representatives of Omagh.

The Strule Dolphins are the single largest customer of the Leisure Centre.

Are they in a position to turn down a guaranteed income source in excess of £7,000 per year?

“The club were anxious about the impact of the pool closure but were reassured through various meetings with the council that our previous swimming times would be honoured and were further reassured that additional swimming times could be available given the increase in resources in the new building.

“The pool time and number of lanes currently being offered is less than what we have had for the two years when we have been travelling to Strabane and Cookstown pools that have somehow been able to accommodate their own swim clubs, a full schedule of swimming lessons, the Special Olympics, the Triathlon Club and others during the closure of facilities in Omagh.”

The spokesperson said that for  the first time in the club’s history it will be unable to recruit new members.

There is a further fear it will even have to reduce membership.

The spokesperson continued “With only partial pool time available the club will have to reduce its membership to a maximum of 50 members and become a non-competitive swimming club.

“The Leisure Centre has recently had discussions with Swim Ulster in relation to hosting development galas.

“These galas attract the best swimmers from across Ulster, however no one from Omagh will be capable of competing due to lack of pool time provided by the council.”

Omagh District Council however insists it has made every effort to balance the needs of groups with the requirement for public accessibility.

The council referred to the Tuesday evening use by the club which it has traditionally had since being formed in 2003 as a “priority time for family and individual swimming.”

A council spokesperson stated that prior to the Leisure Centre closure “many complaints” had been received about the inaccessibility of the pool at family times because of block bookings.

She said, “Omagh District Council has confirmed all the requirements for Strule Dolphins, offering significantly increased provision, with the exception of the Tuesday evening slot.

“Council officers have confirmed to Strule Dolphins that the request for exclusive use of the pool on Tuesday evenings will be reviewed throughout the summer to ascertain the general usage of the swimming pool at this time, and whether is it feasible to provide the club with exclusive use of the main pool on Tuesday evenings when the club’s season commences in September.

“The additional potential of a Sunday morning block booking was also offered to the Club by Omagh Leisure Complex, however, this was declined,” the spokesperson added.

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