SWIMMING clubs say they could be forced to close after revealing they are facing an almost 80 per cent increase in pool hire costs.

A number of swimming clubs across Cornwall have been contacting Cornwall councillors for help after finding that the cost of hiring lanes in council-owned pools is set to rocket over the next two years.

GLL, the charity which runs Cornwall’s leisure centres under a contract with Cornwall Council, said it was increasing charges to keep them in line with “market prices”.

But swimming clubs say the plans to increase lane hire costs from the current £10.50 to £18.50 could put them out of business.

GLL is planning the first price hike in September when a lane will cost £13.50 an hour with plans to go to £16.50 in 2020 and £18.50 in 2021.

Concerns about the price hike were raised at an all-member briefing at Cornwall Council on Friday when councillors were able to quiz GLL bosses.

Jayne Kirkham, a Falmouth Labour councillor, said she had been contacted by swimming clubs and was “concerned about the costs going up”.

She said: “I am being told that they won’t be going anymore as they can’t afford it. I want to know why the prices are going up so quickly.”

Councillors were told the prices were going up and would be “more than the market position” when they increase in September.

They also heard that meetings had been held with swimming clubs about the increases and also to look at other changes which could be made.

Cllr Kirkham highlighted that once all the increase are in place it will be an almost 80 per cent increase.

Tim Webb, head of facilities in Cornwall for GLL, said: “We are currently subsidising the contract quite heavily as an organisation.”

He added: “It is not in our interests to put swimming clubs out of business. We have tried to support them but we need to get it closer to the going rate to what clubs pay across the country.”

Mr Webb said GLL had discussed with the clubs some ways to reduce the costs such as “self-lifeguarding” which would mean GLL would not have to provide lifeguard cover with the clubs doing it themselves.

Stephen Rushworth, Conservative councillor for St Issey and St Tudy, said he had also been contacted by concerned swimming clubs and said they were “very, very concerned” and “many of them will go out of business”.

He said: “You try and say you want to bring it up to what clubs in London will pay – this area is not as wealthy as London and you have got to take that into consideration.”

Mr Webb then clarified his comments saying that he wanted to bring the price in line with other facilities in Cornwall and that clubs could use other pools.

However, councillors highlighted that for some areas in Cornwall the GLL pool is the only option they have.

Amanda Pennington, who is involved in North Cornwall Dragons who use the Dragon Centre in Bodmin and has a daughter who swims competitively, said that clubs are concerned about the price rises.

“It is not inconceivable that clubs could close as a result of this,” she said.

“They (GLL) are from London and don’t understand if they put the prices up so much clubs will not be able to afford it.”

Amanda, who used to be a director of Tempus Leisure, which ran the leisure centres before GLL, added: “There is nowhere else we can go, we are constrained by our geography in Cornwall. It is not London or Hampshire where you can just go to a different leisure centre.”

She claimed that the swimming clubs had already lost pool time due to GLL restricting hours the pools can be used saying that they were forced to change times in March.

“We are allowed to use four lanes at the Dragon Centre with the rest kept for public swimming,” she said. “In the two hours we are there they had three customers in the public lanes while all our kids were squashed in the other lanes.”

Amanda added it was part of the contract that the operators have to “show how they will increase participation in sport”.

She said one boy in the Dragons was in the top ten in his age group nationally and would be competing in events this year.

“How are we going to be able to give these children the opportunity to compete if they make it more difficult for us?”