FOUR leisure centres are set to benefit from a £274,000 National Lottery grant aimed at encouraging more people to take up swimming.

Hambleton District Council is one of 12 authorities across the country to receive the funding as part of Sport England’s Swim Local pilot scheme.

The year-long project will see a new team of swim "activators" introduced at pools in Northallerton, Thirsk, Bedale and Stokesley, along with new products and programmes and enhanced swimming technology. There will also be a major campaign to promote swimming, which will be extended into the Easingwold area.

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The scheme follows extensive customer research and is in response to a recent decline in swimming participation rates in the district.

It will target four key groups of people – families; women and girls; men over 40; and the older generation – with details of the scheme to be announced in September.

Councillor Bridget Fortune, cabinet member for leisure, has recently started swimming lessons to improve her techniques, and has already gone from swimming widths to full lengths of the pool.

She said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as one of these 12 pilots – it is testament to our determination to drive swimming forward across Hambleton.

“I want to say a big thank you to Sport England and the lottery for giving us this opportunity and look forward to seeing our residents reap the rewards.

“Participation rates for swimming have declined over the last few years and the pilots will test solutions to rectify this by improving the customer experience and increase the take up.

“In the last year there were around 170,000 swims in our pools – we want to see that increase significantly as a result of this scheme.”