Swim school to shut down after village opposition

A SWIMMING school with nearly 200 children has been forced to close because of parking issues in a village.

The JJ Swim School, which teaches scores of children to swim every week at a private pool on Benington Road in Aston, will close in four weeks time after villagers complained about parents’ parking.

Stevenage swimming instructors Justine Mileusnic of Durham Road and Jodie Kantas of Archer Road, began the venture in March after realising there was a huge demand for lessons that was not being met at Stevenage Swimming Centre where they also work.

“We’ve both worked at Stevenage Leisure for years and we know how big the waiting lists are. Some people could be on the waiting list for 18 months,” Jodie said.

“We did look at all the public pools but no-one was interested. We then leafleted people’s houses and found this pool. Our husbands did a lot of work on the place. Everything was perfect.”

Parents initially parked in the Pig and Whistle pub car park, but were moved on to the village hall.

“We told our customers that it was fine to park there on the other side away from the hall. One woman said if they park there we will clamp them. There are no signs, its public property. We spoke to a policeman who brought his child to swim and he said they have no right to do that.

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She added: “The owner of the school then decided to open up his field next to the pool. But people have written to East Herts Council saying the cars are spoiling their country view.

Justine said: “He didn’t want to annoy the people in the village with parking so he opened up his field. But he needs planning permission and it’s Green Belt.

“He didn’t want to get involved with planning, so we have to go. He’s also under pressure from the village and he lives there at the end of the day. He thought it would benefit people, but they have never really let it go.”

Jodie said there are villagers who supported the school, but others were always opposed to it.

“They all knew it was for the children. I’ve never come across a village like it. I know there are nosy people but they feel they have a right and an opinion to everything.”

The pair said they are now searching for new premises to carry on their lessons.

“In the time we have helped so many children,” Jodie said.

“They came on so much. So many people want their children to swim and I feel I want to help them.”

Nicki Minter of Great Ashby whose five-year-old daughter was learning to swim at the pool hit out at villagers.

“It’s out of order. They have gone off their own backs and provided a much-needed service for the community, but people complain about a bit of parking. It has upset a lot of children and the great swimming instructors who are teaching our children one of the great skills in life.”

Chairman of Aston Parish Council, David Stimpson, said the matter had not been raised with councillors.

“We heard there were people not happy about it, but no-one made a complaint to us. It was never discussed. It’s suprising in a way.”

Juanita Duffett, well-being manager for Stevenage Leisure which runs Stevenage Swimming Centre, said there is a mandatory waiting list for swimming lessons at the town pool, but parents will get a place.

“At the end of every 10 week block we offer places to people on the waiting list,” she said.

“We can’t have a guaranteed time, but they will never not be fitted in.

“It depends on how long the waiting list is. Sometimes they can be waiting longer, other times it could be a 10 week wait.”