A TEENAGE Olympic diver has criticised a council’s decision to cut funding for his school swimming pool, prompting fears that it may be closed.
Jack Laugher, who has been selected to compete for Great Britain at London 2012 and is Tom Daley’s room-mate, said he was disappointed by North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to withdraw its £14,500 funding for Ripon Grammar School’s pool.
The decision comes at a time when it needs at least £25,000 to update the air conditioning system and keep it open.
Jack, 17, of Littlethorpe, Ripon, who has been tipped to be a future world champion by US diving legend Greg Louganis, said youngsters’ sporting chances would be hit by the move to cut £134,000 that had been allocated to 16 schools in the county to help subsidise their swimming pools.
He said: “It’s a really big shame. Swimming is a basic life skill which everyone should have. The pool gets used a lot by everyone at school.”
The A-level student, who is making his final preparations for the Games this week at a training camping in Majorca, said he regularly uses the school’s pool as he is not allowed to take part in contact sports due to injury fears.
His father, David, a product development manager, said: “It is a fantastic facility to have in school, and to let it go would be a disaster, appalling not only for sporting reasons, but it could help save lives.”
The pool, which was built by pupils’ parents and opened in 1913, was originally an open-air facility, then a roof was added in the early 1960s, when County Durham- born fashion designer Bruce Oldfield was a pupil there.
County councillor Andrew Williams, the Mayor of Ripon, said it would be a great shame if the pool closed because it was a popular community facility, but felt certain that residents would r a l l y around to raise funds to retain it.
He said: “Whatever the council cuts funding from is going to be unpopular as they are cutting frontline services, but it’s a question of balancing what are the most essential things.”
Parents and pupils at the school have launched a £25,000 fundraising drive, which will include an Olympic-themed baking competition tomorrow and an Olympic Spirit summer draw, for which Jack has donated a GB diving team T-shirt, signed by the GB diving team.