Elderly Woman Stopped from Swimming at Parkside

Monday, June 6th, 2011. 9:43pm

Diving Mask - Parkside Pools apparently has strict rules on goggles.

Parkside Pools apparently has strict rules on goggles.(Img Source)

Earlier today (Monday the 6th of June 2011) I was swimming at Parkside Pools in Cambridge. I witnessed something I thought was outrageous: the pool’s manager, named as “Ryan Thorpe”, got an elderly lady to leave the water and escorted her out of the pool area. Her offence: wearing the wrong type of goggles.

The lifeguard explained that only flexible goggles with independent eye-pieces were permissible. The elderly lady explained that she needed to use the one-piece goggles she had due to the state of her eyes, and told the lifeguard she couldn’t swim without them. Having explained this she swam off, but two lengths later, the manager spoke to her and decreed her goggles were dangerous, she protested against this clearly ridiculous assertion, pointing out that she regularly swims using them without a problem, but the manager refused to back down and eventually he escorted her out.

People swim with all sorts of things. I’ve personally swum with a diving mask in a public session when I was learning to dive – (it’s good to practice wearing, and clearing, a mask in the safe, familiar environment and without the time constraint of an actual diving lesson). Many people appear to need to wear a nose clip while swimming. Others choose to wear caps, MP3 players and flippers or mono-flippers (whatever they’re called). All sorts of these things are accepted at Parkside.

Not allowing someone to swim because they need, because of the state of health of their eyes, to wear a particular type of goggle is crazy. We should be encouraging people, especially older people, to exercise.

I read the rules posted about use of the pool, but could not see any specifying the design of goggles permitted. Even if there is such a rule in place I think exceptions ought be made, especially in cases where people’s health dictates that without a flexible attitude they will be denied the ability to use the facility, which ought be accessible to as many members of the public as possibble.

Manager Ryan Thorpe’s actions make a mockery of his employer’s brand: “Everyone Active” under which SLM run Parkside Pools.

The pools are owned by the people of Cambridge, though Cambridge City Council, though their day to day management is contracted out to SLM.

I would be surprised if the Liberal Democrats running the council actually approved of SLM’s practice. Those voting for the party would, I think, expect them to stand up for equal access for everyone to the city’s public facilities and against petty rules which prevent people making use of them. One of the big problems with the Liberal Democrats though is that they don’t appear keen on actually grasping the reigns of power and putting their principles and ideals into practice. One of the effects of the pool being run by a private contractor is that the route for democratically influencing they way they are run is not as clear cut as it would be if the council was running them directly.

Consultation Missing

It’s a bit of an aside, but as I’m writing about Parkside I’ll add that in March 2011 Cambridge City Council announced that it was, “in the coming weeks”, to run a consultation on refurbishments to Parkside Pools, to be carried out in December 2011. As yet that consultation has not made either the consultations page, or the Parkside Pools page, of the city council website.


I will write to my local councillors as well as the Executive Councillor for Arts, Recreation and Sport, Cllr Cantrill, drawing their attention to this article and asking them to comment. I will also tweet in the direction of Cambridge’s newspapers suggesting they might want to contact Mr Thorpe and see how he can justify his actions. SLM are on twitter, so I’ll send them a link too.

7 comments/updates on “Elderly Woman Stopped from Swimming at Parkside

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cllr Cantrill has replied:

    Thank you for your mail – I have asked officers to look into the issue

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    There are now lots of comments on the Cambridge News article.

    One attacks me for raising the matter, but I think it’s important to speak up and speak out when you witness something that’s wrong and needs to change. I think everyone in Cambridge has some duty to keep an eye on what’s being done in our name by the council.

    Most commentators agree with me that the rule is silly; and quite a number are critical of Cllr Cantrill’s response.

    One of those commenting also witnessed the occurrence and corroborates what happened.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cllr Cantrill has responded at some length:

    Mr Taylor

    Further to your e-mail of last night – I have had an opportunity to follow up on the issue with officers today


    I asked officers to initiate an investigation with SLM and they have informed me that

    A lady was asked to remove a mask she was using whilst swimming yesterday. The lady explained that she needed to use the single pane as it was easier for vision. It was explained that a single pane is fine to use, but unfortunately her mask had a covered nose piece too. Staff explained the reasons why and the possible ramifications of using such a mask in the pool based on ISRM Guidance (now IMSPA) in terms of the lady’s own safety and the safety of other pool users

    The lady volunteered to get out on the basis she could not continue without the goggles. Staff offered (and she accepted) a free swim voucher. Although she was disappointed at having to stop her swim she understood the reasons why we had to ask to stop on this occasion and left of her own accord.

    I understand that the lady did not make a complaint regarding the matter or the manner in which staff dealt with the issue

    Council’s approach to swimming provision

    The Council is committed to supporting healthy activity for residents of all ages. Swimming provision is a key component of this – eg over 450,000 visits a year to Parkside, our commitment is illustrated by the investment of £350,000 we will make at Parkside later this year.

    As you may be aware, the current arrangements where the facilities are managed by a third party have been in place for many years – initial outsourcing occurred in the mid 1990s

    Council has a strong overseeing framework in place with the third party manager – to ensure that our values and high standards are correctly reflected in the management of our pools (particularly in relation to the safety of swimmers). We also seek to ensure that stakeholders groups have ongoing input to ensure the management of the facilities reflect users needs

    I hope this is helpful


    Rod Cantrill

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    she understood the reasons why we had to ask to stop on this occasion

    From what I heard she was baffled by the assertion her goggles were dangerous.

    We also seek to ensure that stakeholders groups have ongoing input to ensure the management of the facilities reflect users needs

    This may be a hint that the consultation on the refurbishment the council announced is to be one of the LibDem’s consultation exercises which involve only preselected groups, and not all those with an interest in the outcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Please consider saying where you are from eg. "Cambridge".
Required fields are marked *


Powered by WP Hashcash