Ladies-only swimming faces axe at Hitchin and Letchworth pools

Hitchin Swimming Centre. Picture: Archant

Hitchin Swimming Centre. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Equality legislation means ladies-only swimming could soon be scrapped in Hitchin and Letchworth.

North Herts District Council is reviewing the provision of ladies-only swimming at Hitchin Swimming Centre and North Herts Leisure Centre in Letchworth to ensure it complies with the Equality Act 2010, and is currently carrying out a survey on the subject.

The district council says it can only provide separate sessions for men or women in future if data from its survey demonstrates a specific need, and if there is “objective justification”.

Cherry Hooper, a long-time user of the well-attended ladies-only session each Wednesday night at Hitchin’s indoor pool, says staff have repeatedly told her that the two-hour slot is set to be opened to men as well – something she says would be a “travesty”.

She told the Comet: “The session is attended by other ladies for their religious beliefs, self-consciousness and medical reasons. There’s also the social element that goes with it.

“I have attended this session from 8pm to 10pm each week for the last 15 years. Other ladies have been attending for 20-plus years, and during that time many of us have become good friends.

“Over the past few weeks the staff at the pool have asked us each week to fill in a questionnaire regarding our attendance and if we would still continue to attend if the session was mixed.

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“This will be a travesty, as many ladies will only attend a ladies-only session. This session has been in place for many, many years and enjoyed by so many.

“I do hope that we will be able to fight this change. Perhaps a march and banners are called for!”

Cherry told the Comet that a staff member had confirmed to her last week that the session would be changing to mixed swimming in the near future, but the district council has firmly denied that a decision has already been made.

A spokeswoman said: “If the data we collect demonstrates that there is a specific need for us to provide separate services for either men or women, then a separate service is permissible under the Equality Act 2010 – provided there is an objective justification.”

The survey – which will be open until October 9 – asks whether respondents support continued ladies-only sessions, and attempts to gauge how many people might attend men-only sessions.

To take part, see surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NHDCleisureprovision.

For a paper copy of the survey, contact the district council on 01462 474000 or call into the council offices in Letchworth’s Gernon Road.