Concerns are growing over the future of the £11m Wales National Swimming Pool after a multi-million pound cut in British Swimming’s budget.
Swansea-based South Wales West AM Peter Black is demanding assurances over the future of the elite training centre overlooking Swansea University’s sports centre at Sketty Lane in the city.
The Wales National Pool, one of four British Intensive Training Centres (ITCs) for elite swimming, is currently the base for Olympians Georgia Davies and Jemma Lowe as well as World and Commonwealth medallist Jazz Carlin.
But four-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds has switched from Swansea to the ITC in Loughborough to aid her bid for further success at the 2016 Rio Games.
The popular 18-year-old, who won two gold medals at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympics, has been based in Swansea for the past six years where she completed her school education. Simmonds will move after the upcoming World Championships and will also study for a psychology A-level.
On her decision to switch she said: “I’ve had an amazing time in Swansea, but I need a new stimulus.”
She moved to Swansea when she was 11 with her mother, Val, where Ellie joined leading disability swimming coach Billy Pye.
Liberal Democrat AM Mr Black, also a long-standing Swansea councillor, told the Western Mail yesterday (wed): “I was told that the council are monitoring the situation and talking to the relevant parties.
“I am very concerned that funding could be lost to the National Pool in Swansea for intensive training and that this will lead to a loss of prestige and jobs.
“I am writing to the Heritage Minister today to ask him to intervene to ensure the Swansea Pool continues in its present role for the foreseeable future.”
The £11m Wales National Pool opened in Swansea in 2003 following the demolition of Wales’ national pool, the Wales Empire Pool in Cardiff, in 1998 due to the construction of the Millennium Stadium.
The facility was built with funding from Sport Wales, Swansea Council and Swansea University.
The main pool is 50m long and 21m wide and also boasts a 25m x 9.5m training pool and 1,200 spectator seats
A Wales National Pool spokesman said: “We have a proud track record, since becoming an Intensive Training Centre (ITC), of helping some of the UK’s elite swimmers win medals in major swimming championships. Examples include Jemma Lowe and Georgia Davis, who are currently competing at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona alongside Jazz Carlin, who recently came fourth in the 400m freestyle. Our management are committed to maintaining ITC status at Wales National Pool Swansea and are working closely with Swim Wales and British Swimming.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further until a final decision has been made.”
British Swimming’s budget was slashed by around £4m after a poor showing in the London 2012 Olympics.
Swansea is not guaranteed funding as Wales’ only intensive training centre beyond 2013.
British Swimming has stopped funding its former ITC in Stockport which means there are now just four in the country, Swansea, Sterling, Loughborough and Bath.
It is understood negotiations between British Swimming and Swim Wales (formerly the Wales Amateur Swimming Association), based at the Sketty Lane pool, are continuing.
A British Swimming spokesman said: “The consultation is still ongoing and no decision has been made one way or the other.”
Swim Wales has not issued a comment.