OAP swimmers are making waves over plans to cancel their favourite early-morning pool sessions.
The Over-50s Club hope to make a splash with their campaign – sparked after Renfrewshire Leisure announced it was to introduce later opening times at the Victory Baths in Renfrew three days a week.
The 80-strong group were outraged when they learned the Edwardian-styled baths would be shut from 9am until noon on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout January and February.
The club meets officially on Monday and Friday mornings but many of its members go for a dip throughout the week and say their early-morning swims are the perfect way to start the day.
Renfrewshire Leisure has hit back, saying the move is in the best interests of everyone who uses the baths and there is no loss of hours for the pensioners.
Retired mechanic Les Clark, of Haladale Crescent, Renfrew, has been using the baths five days a week for 12 years along with wife Christine.
The 69-year-old can’t believe pool bosses would consider shutting the baths at one of the busiest periods of the day.
He said: “Whenever I go early in the morning, the baths are always busy but if you go after midday, it’s always dead.
“I can’t understand why they are shutting the baths at the busiest period.
“We have 80 members and at any one point, you’ll find 30 to 40 people taking a swim each day.
“We are all working-class people and like to get up early. Going for a swim is a good way to start the day. If you go at noon, half the day is done already.
“The baths are important to a lot of people. We’ve got members in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. Some have had hip-replacements so going for a swim can really help with their recovery from operations.”
And Les’ wife Christine added: “I am a serious swimmer and last year I swam 190 miles – an average of two miles a day for every swim.
“We just want the baths to be open at their normal times.”
Another elderly member Doris Jack, 73, from Renfield Street in Renfrew, only joined the club three years ago but now she says she doesn’t know where she’d be without it.
“I did not learn to swim until I was 70. It is a wonderful thing and I want my morning swims back as soon as possible.”
And 74-year-old Bill Love, of Craigielea Park, Renfrew, said he was recommended to take up swimming by his doctor.
He said: “I’ve been a member of the Over-50s Club since I retired 12 years ago.
“In that time I have seen lots of health benefits.
“My doctor recommended swimming for me because I had a trapped nerve in my back and lots of other members have been given similar advice.
“We like to go in the mornings so we’d like to see this decision reversed.”
A spokesman for Renfrewshire Leisure – the management trust that runs sports and leisure centres locally – said: “The hours allocated to the Over-50s Club that meets at Renfrew Baths on Monday and Friday mornings are not affected by the revised opening times.
“The Over-50s Club can use the pool at the same time, for the same hours, as they have been doing and their sessions have been protected by Renfrewshire Leisure.
“Just like most other companies, local authorities and organisations, Renfrewshire Leisure has to operate under tight financial restrictions.
“We have to make sure the money we have to spend on facilities is used to best effect and gives the taxpayer and customers the best value for that money.
“The changes in opening hours at Renfrew Baths reflects times of low usage and we are making sure we keep the swimming pool open when people want to use it most.
“There are other local swimming pools open on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning for people to use, or they can have their swim at Renfrew Baths in the afternoon on those three days.
“The hours the Renfrew pool is open every week – 61.25 hours – still exceed the 53.5 hours Renfrewshire Leisure is contracted by Renfrewshire Council to operate the facility.
“And the amount of time given over to swimming lessons and the hours allocated to swimming clubs at Renfrew Baths are not affected by the changes.”
Paisley And Renfrewshire North MSP Wendy Alexander met many of the members of the club when they held their AGM last Monday to discuss their frustrations.
She is now backing their campaign to have the opening times returned to normal.
Wendy said: “I was impressed by the strength of feeling amongst Renfrew over-50s to keep their morning swims. Closing the pool in the mornings particularly hits the over-50s.
“The feeling was unanimous – any small saving in staff time will be outweighed in the loss of health benefits.
“Renfrewshire Leisure boasts of spending millions in the coming years – and yet a silly, short-sighted closure like this affects dozens of regular mature swimmers.
“We all know early exercise is the best exercise so I am calling on Renfrewshire Leisure to think again.