More than 200 swimming pools in England will remain closed despite being able to reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased, a Swim England report has said.
The swimming body said the decision presented a “catastrophe for the health and wellbeing of the nation”.
The 221 pools were council-run, with the North West being particularly hard hit, affecting about half a million swimmers, Swim England said.
Councils pointed to financial difficulties in their decision making.
With lockdown in England having come to an end, gyms and swimming pools across the country would be allowed to reopen from Wednesday, regardless of what tier their area was in.
“While it’s extremely positive that millions of swimmers up and down the country can return to the activity they love, it’s unacceptable to even think that so many people or clubs will not have a much-loved swimming pool to visit,” Swim England’s chief executive, Jane Nickerson, said.
She said more investment was needed to keep swimming pools and leisure centres open, adding that despite a government grant for the industry “financial pressures have not gone away”.
Four times world champion triathlete Barbara Holmes, from Lancashire, said: “People need their pools, especially the children.”
Ms Holmes, who is the over-60s world champion, has been backing campaigners trying to reopen Fleetwood swimming pool.
“The community needs to be heard,” she said.
Trafford Leisure said all of its centres would remain closed until the new year, saying they would be “largely empty and costly to run”.
To save money, its chief operating officer said it has had to furlough staff as well as leaving its pool and building unheated.
In Stoke-on-Trent, the council said it recognised the “essential” physical and mental health benefits of leisure facilities but had made the decision to stagger their reopening and only two of the city’s gyms would not remain closed.
Council leader Abi Brown said 75% of its leisure centre staff had been “redeployed to critical services including welfare calls and contact tracing” in an effort to bring down coronavirus cases and some centres had been adapted for community testing.
“If the current situation improves, we expect to restart more of our sport and leisure services from the New Year,” she said.
While some pools have been “mothballed”, Ms Nickerson said some would “sadly never reopen”.
Swindon’s Oasis Leisure Centre is one victim, which will not reopen after its landlord Seven Capital found its operation was “not viable”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture and Media said it had announced £100m of funding to support local authority leisure centres, as well as £7.2bn to councils “to help with the impacts of coronavirus”.