SWIMMERS have accused council chiefs of ignoring their concerns on planned unisex changing rooms at Leamington’s Newbold Comyn leisure centre.
Women who swim regularly together on weekday mornings say their objections to the ‘village changing’ proposals have fallen on deaf ears despite voicing their concerns at the public consultation and through emails to Warwick District Council.
The early morning swim for the group of mostly pensioners – some have been going for 20 years – has become something of a social ritual where they not only keep fit in the pool, but also enjoy a chat while changing and showering.
But they fear the latter will be lost with the introduction of the mixed-gender changing facilities, including shared showers, as part of a £12million revamp of the centre and the neighbouring St Nicolas Park centre in Warwick.
They say they will be unable to use the same-sex group changing on many mornings as school groups will be using them, meaning the women will have to change in the solitude of a cubical.
And they believe many women will also not feel comfortable having to shower alongside men, and with few individual showers, will be less inclined to even bother using them – or get cold waiting for one.
Long term swimmer Janet Lister told The Observer: “None of the ladies I talk to wants village changing because we all enjoy the social aspect of showering and changing together but it seems our concerns have been ignored.
“There were plenty who attended the public consultation to see the plans and voice our opinion. Swimming isn’t a sociable or team sport so to have a chat before and after is lovely.”
The controversial changing village plans have also promoted concern from some who fear it could be an invitation to perverts following incidents of voyeurism at other centres around the country operating the system – previously reported by The Observer.
A Warwick District Council spokesperson said: “We have listened to all the views and where we are able to we will be reflecting the comments in revised plans.
“However, the principle for village changing will remain, as we believe it to be the most effective use of space and the most flexible option to suit the wide range of customers using the facilities.
“We have asked the designers to increase the number of showers provided and are awaiting confirmation of the numbers. They will comply with Sport England guidelines.”
Plans for the revamp of both the Newbold Comyn and St Nicholas Park centres will be available to view on Warwick District Council’s website later this month.