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WATER result! - 59,700 join free swimming initiative
Thursday 25th March, 2010

WATER result! - 59,700 join free swimming initiative
A flashback to the launch of free swimming in Wigan Borough. Pictured are Dr Kate Ardern, Andy Burnham MP, Lord Peter Smith, Chair of Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT Alan Stephenson with Olympic swimmer Heather Fredriksen.

WIGAN’S free swimming initiative celebrates its first anniversary in April and there are almost 60,000 reasons to dive in.

Council bosses, Leisure & Culture Trust managers, and local health experts are all delighted that 59,700 have taken up the offer.

Cllr Keith Cunliffe, said: “Five years ago, Wigan was the first borough in England to offer free swimming for children and we soon added the over 60s in as well. Once again Wigan is leading from the front by introducing free swimming for all. We seen a tremendous take-up and we’re hoping even more people will splash down at their local pool this year.”

Since free swimming for all was introduced the total number of people who have obtained a Lifestyle card, which costs just £1.50 per year, is 59,700.

For the first nine months of the scheme there have been 219, 265 swims – a 60 per cent increase on the previous year.

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.

Free swimming for all was launched at Leigh Sports Village by council leader Lord Peter Smith, the borough’s executive director for public health Dr Kate Ardern and local MP – and now Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham.

“Mr Burnham said: “Free Swimming is symbolic, it’s game-changing, a real statement of intent that we want to see more people active and helping to improve the health of the nation. And it works because it delivers a clear, simple message that cuts through to people at large. Swimming’s appeal is universal and we see this day in and day out across the borough where I’m proud to say people of all ages can now swim for free.”

The oldest member of the free swimming scheme is 89 and there are around 15 per cent more female swimmers than men.

Howe Bridge Sports Centre is the busiest site for enrolments and for participants.

Between April and December, August was the busiest month, with 36815 swim visits registered across all sites.

Officers and politicians are keen to urge people to continue to take up the free deal, which involves registration first at a sports centre to verify your address.

Wigan Council Leader Lord Smith adds: “Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise and now everyone can take the plunge towards a healthier lifestyle.”

The initiative is being managed and delivered by Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust through the borough’s public swimming pools at Ashton, Hindley, Howe Bridge, Leigh and Tyldesley.

For more information on swimming and other sports and leisure activities in Wigan Borough visit Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s website – www.wlct.org

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