Stevenage pupil protests against swimming cuts

A YOUNG girl has started her own petition in response to the decision to scrap a free swimming scheme for children and pensioners.

Emily Marsh, 11, of Lime Close, Stevenage, has been collecting signatures from fellow pupils opposing the move by the government to stop free swimming for under 17s and those 60 and over after the summer holidays.

The Ashtree School pupil has already sent one petition off to the MP for Stevenage, Stephen McPartland, and gained more than 180 signatures at an open evening held at the school last week.

In a letter to her MP, Emily wrote: “Parents, teachers and other people think going swimming is so much better than sitting in front of the television.

“It is keeping everyone fit and healthy which is leading them to a bright and healthy future.

“To end this free swim would be short-sighted and could lead to obese people (and you might even end up with an Olympic champion!).”

Emily’s mother, Clare, said: “She came up with this on her own and for the children to feel so strongly about this shows how important it is.”

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Responses to the story, reported in The Comet last week, have been mixed.

Jane Wadey, whose two children, aged 10 and 12, have both been regulars at Stevenage Swimming Pool since the age of 5, said: “They joined the free swimming scheme when it started and have made good use of the facility.

“I’ll be redundant later this year so won’t have the money to pay for extra swimming which both of them really enjoy and it keeps them fit.”

Kevin McLoughlin, of Bray Drive, Stevenage, said: “As a hard working taxpayer who has to pay for Stevenage Council tax rises year on year, my two-year-old daughter has to go without on some activities so I can help fund everyone’s free swimathon.”

“When I have tried to take advantage of the free swimming for my daughter I have been turned away as the free swimming was only for restricted periods. I have therefore ended up driving to Hitchin or Letchworth incurring additional petrol expenses.”