A Suffolk council has been awarded more than £210,000 of funding to help with increased utility costs and ensure swimming pools stay open. 

West Suffolk Council has been given £213,500 in Sport England Phase 1 Swimming Pool Grants funding for three pools at Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and Newmarket leisure centres which are owned by the council and operated by Abbeycroft Leisure. 

Since 2020, Abbeycroft has seen energy costs rise by about £1.5million per year. 

The new grant follows £300,000 agreed by West Suffolk Council as part of the 2023/2024 budget to support facilities remaining open in west Suffolk during these challenging times.

Ian Shipp, cabinet member for leisure, said: "I’m delighted with this award. Being physically active is fundamental to our health and swimming pools are valued by a huge range of ages and abilities.

"The unprecedented rises in energy costs plus inflation have put severe pressure on budgets, but this council has made healthy families and communities a priority and we have been working closely with Abbeycroft Leisure to keep the pools open. This funding is very helpful." 

Warren Smyth, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, added: "Soaring energy costs, the impact of Covid and cost of living pressures are putting swimming pools across the country under huge pressure.

"We have received excellent support from West Suffolk Council but this is a much wider issue and we are very pleased to have received this national award." 

Sport England's director of place, Lisa Dodd-Mayne, said: “Many pools have faced a real and significant threat to their survival this year, as local authorities and operators battle the challenge of increased energy and maintenance costs, weakened reserves and difficulties with retaining staff.

“Today’s announcement is an important moment in time, but is by no means the end of the work facing us or the support available as we continue to work with our partners to ensure the long-term viability of these vital community resources."